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Sonia livid at topple game

New Delhi, Nov. 20: Sonia Gandhi is said to be livid with Mamata Banerjee’s drive to topple the government and has asked Congress managers to go the whole hog to defeat the gameplan.

Congress sources said the party leadership is upset not because of Mamata’s opposition to policies such as FDI in retail but because of her willingness to destabilise the Centre at a time of complex economic challenges.

The party has been asked to highlight Mamata’s readiness to transcend ideological barriers in pursuit of her objective to thrust fresh elections on the country.

The government, too, appeared ready in case a no-confidence motion is moved, rejecting perceptions of a crisis without betraying any sense of panic on the eve of the Lok Sabha session.

Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath today contemptuously dismissed talk of a no-confidence motion, saying: “If a party with 19 MPs is threatening us, it does not mean we will start counting our numbers. We are a government with majority and we will prove that in Parliament.”

Kamal Nath said no other party had expressed any support at today’s meeting of chief whips when the Trinamul representative declared his intention to bring the no-confidence motion on the very first day of the winter session on November 22.

The Congress does not rule out the possibility of the BJP playing ball with Trinamul in the hope of future alignment but it feels a no-confidence motion would cause no harm to the government.

The parliamentary affairs minister also indicated that the government would resist any debate on FDI in retail under a rule that entails voting.

He said: “We have received notices under rule 184, which requires voting and rule 193 which doesn’t. There is no precedent in Parliament when an executive decision has been challenged through voting.”

To a query about a voting precedent on Balco disinvestment during the NDA regime, he said: “That was not a policy framework.”

The Opposition parties are alleging “violation” of the promise made by then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to the Lok Sabha that the FDI decision would not be taken before a consensus, but the government is saying the stakeholders were consulted and states have been allowed to accept or reject this policy only because there was no consensus.

“This is only an enabling provision, we are not thrusting it upon any state,” Kamal Nath asserted.

Asked about the irony of a party that contested the election in alliance with the Congress now being hell bent on dislodging the government, Kamal Nath said: “Yes, she was on our side till the last session, now she is on the other side.”

Other Congress leaders aren’t restricting themselves to such understatements and are questioning the political morality of Mamata who had sought a mandate for UPA II for five years.

Congress’s Bengal in-charge Shakeel Ahmed said: “Mamata had just one seat when she contested in alliance with the BJP and gained 18 more seats when she partnered with us. The mandate she got from the people of Bengal is not for toppling the Manmohan Singh government. What she is doing now is betrayal and she must tell the voters in advance about her future plans; it is apparent she plans to form a government at the Centre in coalition with the BJP.”

Ahmed also questioned Mamata’s ideological commitment, saying that she has demonstrated rank opportunism by appealing to her sworn enemy CPM to support the no-confidence vote and showing readiness to join hands with the BJP.

Asked if the Bengal unit now had the free hand to go all out against Mamata, he said: “We will never hesitate to tell the people that she was willing to help communal forces and pull down a government that was doing so much in the social sector, for rural development as well as the overall economic growth.”

Nath appealed to all the political parties to be constructive as the short session, with barely 20 sittings, had a heavy legislative agenda. As many as 25 bills are lined for consideration and passing and 10 will be introduced in the session.