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Trinamul somersaults to Modi’s side
Congress isolated on PM aide bill

Prime Minister Modi arrives at Fortaleza, Brazil, to attend the BRICS summit. (PTI)

New Delhi, July 14: The Trinamul Congress today did a somersault and supported the government’s amendment bill that seeks to legitimise the appointment of Nripendra Mishra as principal secretary to the Prime Minister.

Although heartland rivals Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav as well as Sharad Pawar’s party too backed the bill, leaving the Congress virtually isolated but for support from Left and Aam Aadmi Party members, Trinamul’s dramatic change of heart led to speculation.

Left sources alleged that Trinamul’s U-turn may have been driven by fear of the CBI, which is investigating the Saradha deposit-collection scam.

“That appears a fit reason,” Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed agreed, when asked for his reaction to the Left charge.

Sources said the rethink came this morning after government managers spoke to senior Trinamul leaders.

Trinamul’s Saugata Roy had been the lone member to voice opposition when the government introduced the bill in the Lok Sabha on Friday.

Saugata had said his party would oppose the bill “tooth and nail” and that he would move a resolution against the bill jointly with the Congress’s Adhir Chowdhury.

When the time came to move the resolution today, Roy was not to be seen in the House. Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Trinamul’s leader in the Lok Sabha, not only announced support for the bill but urged others to back it in the interests of governance.

“If the Prime Minister thinks proper to work with somebody in a better way, he should be allowed to do so. For this reason, we do not oppose the bill and everybody should respond and allow the Prime Minister’s Office to function smoothly. On this issue, our support is assured,” Bandyopadhyay said, drawing laughter.

Some Trinamul MPs later claimed that Roy had opposed the bill on his own without discussions with Mamata Banerjee.

Nripendra Mishra

The Congress and Left members walked out before the Lok Sabha passed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill.

The Congress’s isolation suggests the bill will also clear the Rajya Sabha — where the government lacks a majority — thus legitimising former Trai chairperson Mishra’s appointment in Narendra Modi’s office.

Under the existing law, chairpersons of the telecom regulatory authority cannot occupy a government post for two years after retirement. The government had promulgated an ordinance to get round the hurdle, and now wants it replaced with a bill.

From the Biju Janata Dal to Jayalalithaa’s party, all backed the bill. “It is the PM’s prerogative to choose his officers. We should not oppose the appointment if he (Mishra) is a good officer,” Mayawati told reporters outside Parliament.

The Congress put up a brave face, arguing its objection was to the principle and not the individual, so other parties were free to take their own stand.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress’s leader in the House, said: “The ordinance actually destroys the institution. Passing of a law for an individual has no parallel in history.”