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Amit to skip PC meet, 3 bullets in hard gun

Calcutta, Sept. 17: Trinamul leaders feel that Mamata Banerjee may have little option but to take a “hard decision” tomorrow as a breakthrough eluded efforts to find a compromise on the Centre’s reform measures.

Although Mamata has not spelt out the nature of the hard decision, a Trinamul minister listed three well-documented options.

“The party can withdraw support to the UPA government, it can ask its ministers to resign but support the government from outside or it can also ask the ministers to stay away from office till the demands are met. We will do as directed by our party leader,” said Sultan Ahmed, the junior minister for tourism in the UPA government.

Sources at Writers’ Buildings said that on Mamata’s instructions, finance minister Amit Mitra has cancelled his scheduled visit to Delhi tomorrow to meet Union finance minister P. Chidambaram who ruled out a rollback of the UPA’s decisions.

“How can a senior minister head to Delhi to hold talks with Chidambaram when Mamatadi is expected to make an important announcement on Trinamul’s relations with the UPA tomorrow?” a party leader asked this evening.

On Saturday, Mamata had placed three conditions before the Centre to be met within the 72-hour deadline that ends on Tuesday: shelve the decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, roll back the hike in diesel price and increase the number of subsidised domestic LPG cylinders from six to 24 per family a year.

“We are still waiting to hear from the Centre on what it has to say about the chief minister’s demands. She has given the Centre enough time,” a senior state minister said at Writers’ Buildings in the evening.

Sources in Delhi said the Centre had offered to make some modifications in the price of diesel and the LPG cap but Mamata insisted on a rollback.

Tuesday’s Trinamul parliamentary party meeting in Calcutta has now been converted into a larger event as state ministers have also been asked to be present with Town Hall. Sources said calls were made from the chief minister’s office to the ministers, informing them of the meeting.

Last November, Mamata had stayed away from a parliamentary party meeting held in similar circumstances as she was no longer an MP.

“This is a very crucial meeting as a lot of things would depend on the outcome. Walking out of the government will have an impact on the state’s prospects. Apart from the chief minister, senior leaders like Subrata Mukherjee would also be there,” a Trinamul leader said.

Party sources indicated that a rollback of the hike in diesel price and increase in the cap on the subsidised domestic LPG cylinders might have appeased the chief minister, who has remained firm on her opposition to FDI as well.

“Then the question of FDI in retail could have been looked into,” said a senior Trinamul MP. “The Centre has not yet responded to our demand for a financial package to bailout the cash-strapped state government. These factors will also be taken into consideration when the party meets,” he added.

Trinamul leaders said that today’s statement by Chidambaram ruling out a rollback indicated that that the Centre was in no mood to concede Mamata’s demands.

Trinamul insiders said the petroleum ministry’s advice through an advertisement in newspapers to state governments to forego the additional revenue that would be generated from the latest round of hike had also not gone down well with the party chief.

State panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said the Centre could not dictate terms to the state governments. “This is an attack on the federal structure. Why doesn’t the Centre stop collecting the taxes that it has imposed and then ask the states to follow suit? The Centre is indulging in petty politics,” he said.

“Why is the Centre giving such advice through advertisements? They can send a notification,” said Madan Mitra, the state transport minister, who had a busy day trying to find a solution to the transport crisis.