Mamata at a news conference at Writers’. (Pradip Sanyal)
Calcutta, Sept. 19: A section of Trinamul leaders believes that the party has a better chance of getting heard at the Centre on the recent reform measures if it stays in the UPA.
Now that Mamata Banerjee has expressed her intention to withdraw support to the Centre, the Trinamul leaders fear that the party’s protests will be drowned by questions on the survival of the UPA government. In the bargain, issues such as FDI in retail and the diesel price hike may be relegated to the background, they said.
These leaders, however, conceded that “it is too late now for a rethink”.
A senior Trinamul leader said getting the Centre to agree to any of the party’s demands would be “impossible” now. “In a ruling coalition, there are ways in which a junior partner can grab the attention of the main party. Now, who will bother to listen to us? If the Congress-led government falls, we will have to go on the defensive,” he said.
These Trinamul leaders in private expressed their unhappiness at the party’s ministers staying away from cabinet meetings and other such sessions in Delhi. They feel that speaking out more often could have helped the party win the support of other allies.
“We never made proper use of that opportunity. Now we have lost the chance. Voting alongside the BJP and the CPM is not a comforting factor,” a state minister said.
The Trinamul leaders feel it has become difficult for Mamata to take a softer stand after she criticised the Centre’s moves to increase diesel price, allow FDI in retail and put a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders immediately after they were announced and set a 72-hour deadline for a rollback.
“It appears that she had made up her mind to come out of UPA II. From the very first day, she kept her pitch high. Any other decision (now) would have been seen as a climbdown. The Congress, too, has taken a rigid stand. So the possibility of a reconciliation appears dim,” a senior Trinamul MP said.
Some of the Trinamul leaders, especially from rural Bengal, are worried about the possible fallout of Mamata’s decision on the panchayat elections. They feel that the party could have waited till the polls.
According to Trinamul insiders, several MLAs from Nadia, East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas are worried that the Congress could eat into the ally’s votes and make the fight with the CPM tougher.
In the three districts, Trinamul won more seats than the CPM in the Assembly elections last year.
“There was a chance of an unofficial tie-up between Trinamul and the Congress for the rural polls. In this climate of acrimony, even that possibility is gone,” a veteran Trinamul MLA said.
Central funds for ongoing projects are also a worry. “We fear the Centre may deliberately delay releasing funds,” the MLA said.