The Manmohan Singh government’s reform agenda was under assault with Mamata Banerjee announcing a snapping of ties with the United Progressive Alliance, reducing the government to a minority.
Banerjee said her ministers would resign on Friday afternoon, appearing to leave open the possibility of a compromise. But acceding to her demand to roll back the decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail would mean a major loss of face for the government and its leadership.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi would reach out to the Trinamool Congress leader.
There appears to be no imminent threat to the government as Samajwadi Party, which lends outside support, said it would not be influenced by Trinamool’s decision. But SP said its support should not be taken for granted.
SP also endorsed Trinamool’s complaints against Congress. “The issues for which Mamata has pulled out are serious. Congress should have paid attention... Whether it is FDI, diesel, LPG or Coalgate, all Opposition and even UPA allies have protested. Seeing the protests, the Congress government should have rolled back the decisions. Congress is behaving as if it has two-thirds majority,” said Ram Gopal Yadav, leader of SP in the Lok Sabha.
Even if the government survives the present crisis, future reforms such as raising FDI limits in the pension and insurance sectors, which require pushing legislation through Parliament, look uncertain.
The pullout by Trinamool came as a surprise for Congress, which was hoping for a graded disengagement in which Banerjee, while withdrawing her ministers, would have continued supporting the government from outside.
Instead, Banerjee, who addressed a press conference after a meeting of leading members of her party, launched a dramatic attack on Congress that was telecast live on national television. Speaking mostly in Bengali, she was scathing in her denunciation of both the reform-friendly decisions of the Manmohan Singh government and its style of functioning.
Banerjee, who met senior party leaders at Kolkata’s Town Hall, said her party cannot have any ties with Congress, which has increased fuel prices and allowed foreign supermarkets in the retail sector.
“We were not consulted. It was done to divert popular attention from Coalgate. If we continue to back them, they will unleash another set of unpopular decisions, such as pension reforms, to counter another possible scam,” she told reporters.
Announcing the end of her party’s tumultuous relationship with Congress, Banerjee she would step up protests against the government’s reform agenda inside and outside Parliament. “We will not allow pension or insurance reforms. We will not allow the government to hike fertiliser prices. We will not allow the government’s sellout plans,” she said.
Banerjee said the decision to pull out was taken after considerable deliberation. “I had spoken to Sonia Gandhi four days ago and conveyed that it would be difficult for us to support the latest decisions of the government,” she said.
The Trinamool chief used the opportunity to narrow the elbow room for supporting parties. “I know Congress. It will ditch Mamata and go to (Bahujan Samaj Party chief) Mayawati, it will ditch Mayawati and go to Mulayam (Singh Yadav) and then it will ditch Mulayam and go to (JD-U leader) Nitish Kumar.”
The main opposition BJP, which took the lead in announcing a nationwide bandh on September 20 against the government’s recent decisions, blamed Congress for Trinamool’s decision to part ways with the UPA. “The beginning of the downfall of the UPA government has started. Mamata has exposed the arrogance of Congress,” said BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad. While SP has left the decision on supporting the Centre to party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati has said BSP would take a stand on its association with the government on October 9.
Stand offs between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress in UPA 2.
Sept 6, 2011 : PM’s Dhaka visit hits a block, Didi refuses to come on board on Teesta water sharing
FDI IN RETAIL
Nov 27, 2011 : Makes opposition clear. Dec 5, 2011 Govt forced to put FDI in retail on hold
Feb 2012 : Mamata vocal against NCTC, says it disturbs federal structure
RAIL FARE HIKE
March 2012 : Forces Dinesh Trivedi to quit as rail minister after he announced passenger fare hike
May 23, 2012 : Rs 2 cut in petrol prices fails to satisfy Didi. She wants full rollback of Rs 7.54 hike
June 8, 2012 : UPA efforts to push through Pension Bill with amendments fails under TMC pressure
June 2012 : Mamata backs APJ Abdul Kalam, works a deal with Mulayam, who backs out and throws weight behind Pranab. In the end, sulking Didi says she’s backing Pranab with a heavy heart
July 2012 : Mamata’s initial choice Gopal Krishna Gandhi, backs out. She finally backs Hamid Ansari
Sept 12, 2012 : Govt hikes diesel prices by Rs 5 a litre. Mamata cries foul
Sept 14, 2012 : Govt moves raft of reforms, including FDI in retail, FDI in aviation sector, FDI in media etc. Mamata furious, gives govt 72 hours. PM insist no rollback. Mamata exits UPA-2
Mamata has set a record that she cannot remain an ally of a coalition for full 5 years. She did it to the NDA and now has done it again with the UPA 2.
On a day when the UPA lost an ally in Mamata, the DMK too decided to flex its muscles by joining the opposition-sponsored nationwide bandh against the Centre. Party spokesperson T K SElangovan said, “Our leader is seriously considering various issues and he will come out with a statement on Wednesday.”
Regarding the party’s decision to participate in the bandh on September 20, he said, “The Congress may have some compulsions but we have our own views and we are with the people.” Party seniors said they would seek a rollback of diesel prices and FDI in retail, but won’t go the Mamata way.
In a statement released earlier in the evening, DMK president M Karunanidhi has asked his cadres and party-affiliated trade unions to extend “full co-operation” to ensure the bandh is “peaceful” and “successful”.
The NDA too cuts a sorry figure with the clash of ideologies between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar. The JD(U) will contest against the BJP in the Gujarat state elections.
Looking at the way things stand....coalitions seem no good for the country. At different times ....on different issues...smaller regional parties wag the dog...and make India cut a very sorry figure. I wish we could head towards a two - party system. The very thought of a so called probable third front seems a nightmare at the moment.