Following their meeting with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs on Friday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking a three-year interest payment moratorium on loan taken for West Bengal. TMC leader and minister of state for urban development Saugata Roy said the prime minister had assured them that everything would be done to bail out the state from debt.
With presidential polls round the corner, TMC’s support will be crucial for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) if it wants to have its own candidate in place.
After the 15-minute meeting at the Parliament House, Roy said, “The state is on the edge of a precipice. Its financial condition is very bad, and the state government is facing grave difficulty.”
Reiterating what TMC chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee stated on several occasions, Roy said the state paid around Rs 18,000 crore as interest and Rs 7,000 crore as loan repayment last year. Bengal’s total debt was around Rs 1,83,000 crore last year.
“Unless the Centre does something immediately, the state will run into a deep crisis,” Roy said.
TMC senior leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said the Prime Minister was “very positive” in his response. “The Prime Minister told us that within the realms of possibility and constitutional limitations, the Centre will do everything possible for West Bengal,” Roy said.
The TMC delegation is preparing the ground for the party chief Mamata Banerjee’s visit to Delhi. Banerjee will be in the capital on May 5 to attend the meet on National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). She is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister as well.
Banerjee had issued a 15-day ultimatum to the UPA last Saturday for accepting the state’s demand for a three-year interest moratorium. When asked about the matter, Roy clarified “there is no arm-twisting, no threat and no bargaining. All this is being reported by the media”.
In the absence of requisite numbers in the House, the UPA is dependent on TMC support for bolstering its candidate in the upcoming presidential polls in July; the UPA is, therefore, keen to placate its ally, the TMC.