Mamata's break with SoniaG. The mystery of the phantom calls - Sanjay K. Jha
Five signals from Delhi
New Delhi, Sept. 19: The Congress leadership is preparing for life without the “Mamata factor”, though it has not shown any haste in declaring separation from the ally who has left little room for reconciliation as the Friday deadline nears.
Calculations moved beyond the Trinamul Congress today as the Congress leadership worked on survival strategies that had not factored in till late tonight the possibility of a compromise with Mamata Banerjee.
Five explicit signals were sent out during the day that reinforced the perception that the Congress was not willing to engage with Mamata any more:
The Centre ruled out a review of the FDI decision and the possibility of any substantive rollback in the diesel price hike;
Leaders got in touch with other UPA allies to ensure that nobody else showed dissent. The DMK was made to fall in line;
Congress-ruled states were asked to give nine LPG cylinders instead of six at a subsidised rate, not just to the poor but to all consumers — a move that would place cash-starved states like Bengal under additional strain;
The Bengal Congress unit was instructed to withdraw support and pull out ministers as soon as the Trinamul ministers quit on Friday;
BSP leader Mayawati was approached for help as Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Left tried to send negative vibes.
Asked if there was a possibility of any further concession, Congress sources said the government might think of a face-saver for Mayawati and Mulayam, not Mamata, as they should have a genuine reason to support the UPA.
The Congress core committee met this morning at the Prime Minister’s residence and discussed the fallout of the Trinamul’s prospective exit from the UPA and decided not to buckle under pressure.
It was decided that the Prime Minister would explain to the Trinamul ministers the purpose of the decisions that have enraged Mamata, but nothing more would be done, such as the reversal of policies, to please her.
The Congress leaders contested Mamata’s claim that no calls were made to her. Both Ambika Soni and Janardan Dwivedi asserted that Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh had tried to talk to her. There was no mention of any new plan to contact her.
The leaders admitted in private that Mamata’s hostile behaviour yesterday and the repeat performance today — she blasted the Centre at a media conference in Writers’ today — had closed all options for reconciliation.
The information and broadcasting minister instead talked of managing the numbers and ruled out any threat to the government.
The Congress leaders rejected the demand for a special session. “We enjoy majority till the Samajwadi Party and the BSP withdraw their letters of support submitted to the President. Till then, nobody should raise any question of majority,” a Congress leader said. “We know there are enough number of parties which do not want an election at this stage.”
NCP leader Tariq Anwar put it more candidly: “Mamata has committed the same mistake the Left had made during the nuclear deal stand-off. The Left was punished by the people and now Mamata will pay for this mistake. UPA II will complete its term. Even Mulayam Singh and the Left would think a hundred times before pulling down this government as it helps none other than the BJP.”
Congress sources said the much-awaited cabinet shuffle was expected to take place early next week after the Trinamul ministers quit as there was no point in keeping vacancies when the government enters its last leg. “A railway minister will be appointed,” a Congress leader said.
The sources said the Prime Minister was giving finishing touches to the cabinet shuffle. They said he called up tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay and asked him to be prepared to resign as part of the exercise.
The Congress tried to pacify the common people by asking states under its rule to provide three additional LPG cylinders at subsidised rates. Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit had earlier announced giving nine cylinders to the poor but Dwivedi said it would be available to all.