The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) might have rid itself of Trinamool Congress (TMC), its most troublesome ally, but it will now watch its steps before unleashing any further reforms that might anger its existing allies. “We cannot push the tolerance level of our allies,” confesses a senior Congress cabinet minister.
With TMC out, the UPA is now dependent on Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which support the UPA from outside. The government is unlikely to announce any more contentious reforms, but will go ahead with other milder economic reforms. Big ticket reforms such as FDI in insurance and pension are unlikely to be pursued. The SP, for instance, has publicly announced its opposition to FDI in both these sectors.
Says a senior cabinet minister: “Mamata Banerjee and the TMC were not the only ones opposed to FDI in pension, other allies too are opposed to it. We can’t push our allies too far. Already, we have gone ahead with some reforms and in the coming days, we will be going ahead with measures like sugar decontrol and financial restructuring of power distribution companies.”
Taking a different line, another Congress minister says: “Earlier, there was a piecemeal approach, but now we have decided that we will do whatever reform steps need to be taken at one go and then ensure that they are implemented.”
The TMC parted ways with the UPA over its opposition to FDI in multi- brand retail, cap on subsidized LPG cylinders and diesel price hike.
The reform measures that have been unleashed so far involved non- legislative decisions. In the coming days, the UPA will be going ahead with more such decisions that will not require the legislative route.
However, it may not a cakewalk for the UPA. “We are wholly opposed to FDI not just in retail, but also in insurance and pension. We believe that too much of foreign investment is a sell out of the country to foreign powers,” says Naresh Agarwal, a senior SP leader.
For the moment, the numbers are in favour of the UPA with 306 MPs supporting it, including 22 MPs belonging to the SP and 21 of the BSP.