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FDI stone aimed at two Bengal birds
- Trinamul leaders say party made ‘virtue out of necessity’

Nov. 26: The Trinamul Congress sprang a surprise today by not insisting on voting on FDI in retail, telling an all-party meeting in Delhi that the Speaker should decide the rule under which a discussion should take place.

Trinamul leaders, however, denied charges of bailing the Centre out and argued their party was making a “virtue out of necessity”, knowing well that the Centre would not allow voting on the issue.

“We are strongly against FDI in retail. The government should withdraw the decision. Trinamul wants a discussion but the Speaker should decide under which rule,” MP Sudip Bandopadhyay was quoted as telling the all-party meeting called by the government to break the Parliament logjam.

Trinamul sources said the party sought to gain politically in two ways.

One, it can now hope to embarrass the CPM by accusing it of joining hands with the BJP on the matter, while conveying to supporters that Trinamul will not been seen voting with the Left on any issue.

Two, by distancing itself from the BJP, Trinamul wants to pre-empt any erosion in its minority vote bank.

“By seeking BJP support for our no-confidence motion, we may have antagonised a section of the minority community,” a party leader said.

“However, by not siding with the BJP (on voting on FDI), we hope to repair whatever damage the earlier move may have caused.”

A source said that having burnt her fingers twice at the national level — first on the subject of the presidential candidate and then on the no-trust motion — Mamata Banerjee did not want to be seen on the losing side again.

“Since Mamata knows the government will not allow voting on FDI under any circumstances, she does not want her party to once again come away as the loser.”

Besides, by siding in principle with the Congress on a House discussion minus voting, Trinamul apparently hopes to ease the pressure on one of its MPs against whose company the Centre has launched a probe. “Being in power in Delhi, the Congress can be vindictive if it wants to,” a Trinamul leader said.

Besides, he said, Mamata doesn’t want the Centre to launch a probe into the functioning of the railway ministry during Trinamul’s tenure at its helm. “She knows that if any irregularities are detected, it would tarnish her image.”

Kalyan Banerjee and Derek ’Brien, Trinamul chief whips in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively, denied any move to bail the Centre out.

“We pulled out of the government. We want the government to go and, for that, we moved a no-trust motion,” ’Brien said. “We are consistently opposing all the anti-people policies of the government. How can we bail the government out?”

‘Begging bowl’

Trinamul now has the satisfaction of having pulled a tit-for-tat on the wider Opposition for spurning its no-trust initiative — a sentiment that seemed to be reflected in Sudip’s comments at the all-party meeting.

“Sudipda told the BJP they were now moving around with a begging bowl, expecting alms from the Speaker in the form of a vote on FDI,” Kalyan said. Another party source quoted Sudip as telling the BJP it had missed a “golden opportunity”.

“Had you (BJP) supported our no-confidence motion, it would have got admitted and there would have been voting in the House. You wouldn’t have had to beg,” Sudip told the meeting.

He later told reporters that if the Opposition reconsidered its stand and moved a no-trust motion, Trinamul would support it. “Yes, we will support a BJP-sponsored no-confidence motion,” Sudip said in answer to a question.

Asked what Trinamul would do if there was voting in Parliament on FDI after all, Sudip said it would never happen. He said finance minister P. Chidambaram had categorically rejected the idea at the meeting, saying a vote would send a wrong signal to the international community.

Trinamul insiders, however, said they would find it very difficult to stage a walkout if there was voting on FDI.