New Delhi: With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sending a firm message that reform button has been pushed, the Trinamool Congress is caught in a bind. The question before TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is - can she be seen as toppling the government and pushing for early elections at a time when the economy is in shambles?
However, the Congress is confident that Mamata can be persuaded. Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi remained confident of "sorting out" differences and described Mamata as an "important and valued colleague" in the UPA.
UPA managers are confident of numbers. They say even if Mamata walks out of government, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party can be brought in to push in reforms. SP chief Mulayam Singh's opposition over FDI in retail can be won over with a package for Uttar Pradesh and BSP’s Mayawati too can be talked through.
While allies including the TMC are crying foul, the Deputy Chairman of the planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia insists that all parties were taken into confidence before the decision was announced. In a coalition govt, govts do want to consult in order to broaden the area of consensus. “So even if you fail to achieve consensus, the very fact that you tried, you should be given some credit,” he said.
Meanwhile, sources say the TMC may consider pulling out its ministers from the government in protest against allowing FDI in retail and diesel price hike, and giving it outside support.
Ahead of their countrywide agitation on September 20, the NDA and the Left parties also stepped up their offensive against the Government's decisions which, they said, would badly hit the common man and the farmers.
The TMC has set a 72-hour deadline on Friday for the Government to rollback its decision on diesel, cutting supply of subsidised LPG cylinders, and FDI in multi-brand retail, failing which it threatened to intensify its agitation.
Party insiders said one serious option that could be considered is withdrawing its Cabinet Minister for Railways and six other Ministers of State at the Centre unless the government rolls back some of its decisions at least partially.
Mamata is slated to consult party leaders and MPs on Tuesday to chalk out the next course of action.
TMC sources said the way out could be that the Centre could effect a token cut on the Rs five per litre hike in diesel prices and give more subsidised LPG cylinders and not restrict them to six.
However, TMC, which has 19 MPs in Lok Sabha, is said to be strongly opposed to allowing FDI in multi-brand retailing.
Lashing out at the Government, BJP leader Balbir Punj said it has lost the faith of common man and its isolation is complete as even its allies are not being able to live with it due to the "arrogance" of Congress.
Upping the ante, JD-U said that the government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have to go for this "dangerous venture". Party President Sharad Yadav expressed confidence that Mamata Banerjee won't support FDI in retail under any circumstances.
Yadav, who is the NDA convener, indicated that the coordinated agitation by the Opposition on September 20, will strive to ensure that the government is ousted.
In Kolkata, Left parties on Sunday announced a 12-hour all-India general strike on September 20 coinciding with the agitation by other opposition parties and UPA supporter SP.
"We have talked to other parties in this short time and decided on this protest by way of the 12-hour all-India strike," CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat told reporters.
SP and BSP, the outside supporters of UPA government, have also strongly opposed these decisions.
While SP, which has 22 MPs in Lok Sabha, has said that it was continuing support to the government to keep the communal forces at bay, BSP, with a strength of 21 MPs, has said its executive will meet on October 9 or 10 to consider whether to continue its outside support or not.
In a joint statement, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav along with Left parties, JD(S), BJD and TDP on Saturday called for a powerful protest on September 20 alleging the government has "stuck cruel blows on the people one after another" by raising diesel price, limiting subsidised cooking gas, opening up of multi-brand retail and disinvestment of PSUs.
(With additional inputs from PTI)