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Mamata subdued

New Delhi, Feb. 28: Mamata Banerjee today used words such as “restrained”, “strategic” and “revenue neutral” to describe the budget, a reaction perceived as subdued.

Her choice of words amused political circles as it was expected she would praise the key Congress leader from Bengal. It was also thought she would return Pranab Mukherjee’s compliment, the finance minister having praised her for a “good” railway budget.

“She has to work in a very difficult situation and on the whole it is a good (rail) budget,” Pranab had said last Friday.

Mamata refrained from getting into details to justify her reaction but made it clear the budget was a “so-so” one. She lauded the raise in wages given to anganwadi workers but felt the tax exemption limit should have been raised to Rs 2 lakh.

Her subdued attitude was visible in the House, too, as she did not thump the table like Congress members did when Pranab announced populist measures. She was busy sketching and talking to party members Sudeep Bandyopadhyay and Kalyan Banerjee.

Trinamul leaders said Mamata’s reaction should be judged by her “fluctuating” relationship with Pranab and it had very little connection to the content of the budget.

“Seat-sharing talks with the Congress are round the corner and Mamata is gearing up for a hard bargain with Pranab and other leaders,” a Trinamul MP said.

Another Trinamul MP felt she chose the word “restrained” because the budget had tried to strike a balance between reforms and the social sector. “Strategic, since he kept elections in Bengal and other states in mind.”

Late in the afternoon, Mamata left for Calcutta. She is expected to return on Wednesday for a couple of days as the railway budget would then be taken up for discussion in Parliament.

She is also likely to try and finalise the seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress. The Election Commission is expected to announce the poll schedule in the first week of March.

Trinamul leaders said Mamata has directed party MPs and ministers not to “waste time” in Delhi and camp in their constituencies. “We have been asked to come to Delhi only when it is extremely necessary,” a Trinamul MP said.

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