New Delhi, Sept. 16: The Congress has launched a back-channel drive through multiple sources to convince Mamata Banerjee that the Centre had little option but to take the tough decisions that have angered her.
At least two veterans no longer directly associated with the executive functions of the government are informally in touch with the chief minister, sources in Delhi said.
On the political side, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel is said to be interacting with Mamata, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, too, was planning to call her before the expiry of her 72-hour deadline on Monday night, the sources added.
Senior Congress leaders said tonight that they were sure Mamata would see the bigger national picture and not destabilise the government. “No crisis,” said a senior government manager.
He did not explain the source of his confidence but at least one other leader suggested that the possibility of some sort of a give-and-take was being explored.
Asked if concessions would be offered to Mamata in the form of a partial rollback, the senior Congress leader said: “Let’s see.”
The statement signalled a subtle shift from yesterday’s assertion by some party leaders who had ruled out any rollback, although the government has kept some room for manoeuvre on the diesel price. (See Business)
The sources said there was no question of reversing the proposal to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, except for further reaffirmation of the states’ liberty to choose. However, they added, some relief in diesel pricing, and raising the LPG subsidy ceiling from six cylinders a year to eight, could be considered. Sonia is said to be supportive of the latter idea.
The Congress understands that it cannot expect relief from Mamata without offering her a visible face-saver.
Senior cabinet ministers and leaders of other allies too are denying any immediate threat to the government. There is an impression that the Prime Minister would not have taken the plunge without considering the possible political fallout.
The stand-off has come at a time Sonia is planning a revamp in the cabinet and party organisation.
The cabinet rejig is expected within the next three or four days and any withdrawal of ministers by Mamata will complicate matters. But Congress leaders are hoping that Mamata would not punish her own ministers for something done by the Congress’s ministers.
Asked about the possibility of Mamata withdrawing support, Shakeel Ahmed, the central leadership’s man in charge of Bengal affairs, said: “All our allies are responsible and we hope our leaders will be able to convince Mamata why these decisions were taken.”
He added: “She stands to gain nothing by pulling down this government.”
Asked if anybody was talking to Mamata, he said: “I don’t know but she will naturally be contacted.”