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Indian party quits coalition over economic reforms

Publication Date : 19-09-2012


The Trinamul Congress yesterday dealt a severe blow to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) by deciding to withdraw support from the central government but left the door open for a possible compromise in the next three days. The party has decided that its ministers will resign on Friday.

The second biggest constituent of the UPA with 19 members in the Lok Sabha (Lower House) sprang a surprise after a meeting of its MPs and top leaders with a caveat that the party could reconsider its stand if the government rolls back its decisions on foreign direct investment and diesel price hike and restricting subsidies on domestic LPG cylinders.

Trinamul supremo and chief minister Mamata Banerjee blamed the Congress for leaving no other option than “withdrawing support” from the government. Banerjee presided over a crucial marathon meeting of Trinamul MPs, state ministers and other top leaders at Town Hall and then announced the pullout decision, setting at rest all speculation about whether the Trinamul would take a “half-hearted” decision  or sever its ties with the centre.

“No half-hearted decision. Had we only asked our ministers to step down and remain in the government, you would then said our decision was neither here nor there. We haven't done that. We have weighed all options and arrived at a unanimous decision that our ministers would hand in their resignation letters to the prime minister on September 21 at 3pm, while we withdraw our support from the UPA-government,” Banerjee told a press conference.

“We have been forced to leave the UPA-government because our presence in it was not helping certain people. Those who can't work with us, can't work with any one else,” she said.

Asked whether the Trinamul would reconsider its pullout decision if the Congress conceded its demands, Banerjee said: “We waited for over 72 hours after setting the deadline, but to no effect. Three more days are still left before our ministers tender their resignations. Let’s see what they do."

Significantly, she said the party may have to lose the railway ministry, but may be offered more than one Cabinet berth.

The Trinamul chief said: “The way the UPA-government is being run and the coordination committee of the UPA allies was formed three years after the government was installed, no people-related sensitive issues were discussed with us. Fuel prices were hiked several times during the UPA-II regime and fertiliser prices raised by 75 per cent.

The pattern followed for hiking fuel and LPG prices is to announce an increase of 8 to 20 rupees (US$0.14 to $0.37) and finally reduce them by at the most 2 rupees. We were the second largest block in the UPA, but we were not given the minimum respect. State Congress leaders had indulged in a slander campaign and even character assassination of our party leaders. We never used any unparliamentary language against any Congress leader,” Banerjee said.

Even before setting the 72-hour deadline on September 15 for rolling back the latest “anti-people” measures, Banerjee disclosed that she had a telephonic talk with Sonia Gandhi and urged her to rescind the Central decisions, to provide at least 24 LPG cylinders a year and not to allow FDI in retail that would make 50 crore people in the unorganised sector of the country starve.

“Whom do they want to benefit by killing crores of people through FDI in retail?” Many are saying FDI-gate is but an attempt to suppress coalgate. Had we not taken the pullout decision, the centre would have next introduced the pension bill and put at stake the hard-earned money of the salaried people,” she asked.

Lashing out at the Congress’ “politics of blackmail”, she said: “Their game plan is to take the support of one party after making another quit.” She further said: “The Congress has the knack of taking Mulayam Singh Yadav's help after Mamata Banerjee leaves the alliance and then choosing between Yadav and Mayawati or between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad."

Again, she said, there were speculations that the Trinmaul would vertically split over the pullout question. “Have we split? You can see for yourself the unanimity in the Trinamul," she said.

She said there was no need for the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) and the Congress to be “ecstatic” about our decision. “The Trinamul is the only party in the country which can take such a bold decision in the interest of the people,” she said. Her final rapier thrust was at the prime minister when she said: “We have been hearing about reforms, reforms and reforms since 1992. But what has come of them? Why are the common people suffering so much?”

Left Front chairman Biman Bose said the Trinamul's decision vindicated the Left Front's stand on protesting against the Centre's measures and hoped that Banerjee would rescind her government's decision on resisting the LF's bandh call on September 20.


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