Monday, 17 September 2012

Mamata Banerjee's party talks tough, Prime Minister may reach out today

Mamata Banerjee's party talks tough, Prime Minister may reach out today
Clean Media Correspondent

New Delhi, Sept 17 (CMC) Hours before Mamata Banerjee meets her party leaders to make what she described over the weekend as "hard decisions,"  her party has listed three plans of action that it is considering in retaliation for the government's decision to hike diesel prices,  limit subsidized cooking gas cylinders for families, and open up the country's retail sector to foreign investors.

 "There could be a pull-out of ministers from the UPA, there could be withdrawal of support from the government or ministers will not attend office," said Sultan Ahmed today.   Mr Ahmed is one of seven ministers from Ms Banerjee's party in Delhi.   To pacify her, the government may increase the number of subsidised cooking gas cylinders that households are entitled to.

Sources say the Prime Minister is likely to reach out to Ms Banerjee today, in an attempt to persuade her to remain in his coalition government.  Ms Banerjee, who is the chief minister of West Bengal, has 19 Lok SAbha MPs, making her the second-largest party in the UPA, after the Congress.  

Last year, Ms Banerjee's threat to exit the UPA forced the government to suspend its plans to allow Foreign Direct Investment or FDI in multi-brand retail.  On Friday, the government in a surprise move said it would go ahead with the reform which means supermarkets like Wal-Mart can sell directly to the Indian customer with a local partner. Ms Banerjee responded with predictable fury, but the government has made it clear that this time around, it will not capitulate, partly because it knows Ms Banerjee has limited options.

Mainly, should Ms Banerjee quit the UPA, other parties will lend their weight to the coalition to keep the government from falling.  So Ms Banerjee's exit will only force her out of the power equation at the centre.  

The Samajwadi Party, headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav, has 22 Lok Sabha MPs as compared to Ms Banerjee's 19. Mr Yadav's party has opposed FDI in retail, and has said it will not allow the reforms in Uttar Pradesh, where Mr Yadav's son, Akhilesh, is chief minister. But there has been no talk of ending the external support that Mr Yadav critically provides to the UPA.  Mayawati's BSP, another regional powerhouse with 21 Lok Sabha MPs has taken a similar stand.

Opposition parties ranging from the Left to the right will hold a nation-wide strike on Thursday to protest against the reforms in retail on the grounds that super-chains like Wal-Mart and Tesco will obliterate thousands of corner stores and the livelihood of many small farmers.  The government has been stressing that states have the right to decide whether to allow FDI in retail, and that Ms Banerjee's opposition must not over-ride other states' prerogatives to introduce reforms.

1 comment:

  1. Will it be a tough talking only or a tough acting aswell this time around!