Most union ministers of the Trinamool Congress were back at work in the capital on Wednesday, a day after they sensed that a resolute Congress, as head of the ruling UPA at the Centre, would give the alliance partner from West Bengal a patient hearing -- and nothing more.
While in the national capital, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reportedly ruled out a rollback of the latest petrol price hike, yesterday’s Kolkata talks between Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, as the chief minister of West Bengal, remained inconclusive.
The PM, it is learnt, even explained the TMC MPs who met him on Monday the rationale behind the fuel price hike. He made clear that it would be impossible to continue subsidising petrol. All that he reportedly conceded was there was a certain “lacuna in coordination” between the ruling alliance parties.
In the West Bengal capital, the CM reiterated her demand for a special Rs 19,000-crore financial package for the state. Mukherjee reportedly heard her out in the presence of Governor M K Narayanan. Thereafter, he met the Prime Minister last night in the capital, conveying Mamata’s demand.
On Wednesday, a TMC insider said the PM gave the delegation of his party MPs a “patient hearing”, and “explained to us that roll back of petrol prices was not possible”. That continuing to subsidise petrol would be at the cost of budgetary cuts for other crucial sectors like social sector programmes was an issue that economist prime minister Manmohan Singh explained to the disgruntled MPs of the TMC, which had even on Monday night threatened to pull out of the government.
Congress sources say this time around the Congress-led UPA was resolute. “We will not give in to the open threats from Mamata, come what may,” said a Congress leader.
What is significant is that the Prime minister also did not give any assurance as far as decontrolling prices of diesel, LPG and kerosene. For now, the TMC is banking on the fact that the winter session of Parliament gets underway by late November, after which several states go to the polls. So yet another fuel price soon is unlikely.
“The UPA government has already giving financial assistance to West Bengal,” pointed out a senior Congress functionary. “Now, to again give in to is demand for a special package would be like opening the flood-gates to demands from other states. This is not tenable.”
Clearly, the TMC’s muscle-flexing did not work this time around.