New Delhi, Sept. 18 -- Wait till this evening to know whether Trinamool Congress, the second largest constituent of the 40-month old UPA government would remain a part of the government.
Party chief Mamata Banerjee has directed all her ministers, senior leaders and heads of different wings of the party to assemble at Town Hall in the evening.
As things stand on Tuesday morning, Mamata is almost certain to pull out her ministers. Trinamool has one cabinet (railways) and six ministers of state such in tourism, rural development, urban development, health, shipping, information and broadcasting.
On Saturday leading a protest rally in Kolkata, Mamata gave a 72-hour deadline to the centre to rollback its decision and threatened to take a 'tough stand' that 'may not be liked by some'. "We will wait till Tuesday. If the centre does not reconsider, we'll have to take a tough decision. I hope people won't misunderstand me.We have only the railway ministry. We don't mind if it is taken away," she thundered.
The buzz is growing louder that the Trinamool would walk out of the government, but continue to give outside support. The rationale: it would send a strong signal that Mamata is not ready to compromise when it comes to fundamental policies, and yet wise enough not to topple the government.
While the minister-pullout buzz gets louder, a section of Trinamool leaders are also advocating a boycott UPA cry (without pulling out the ministers). Mamata has already asked her finance minister Amit Mitra not to go to Delhi and meet Chidambaram for talks on a financial bail-out package, till she takes a final decision on Tuesday.
Those who are advocating minister-pullout argue Mamata needs to send a strong enough step to take the wind out of the sails of the Left in Bengal that is already making loud noises over the diesel, LPG and FDI issue.
"None is really eager for elections now and Mamata does not want her to be seen as the reason for a fall of the government," said a senior party leader. Moreover, Mamata herself remarked last week that if she pulls out, others are (read Samajwadi Party) waiting to step in the void.
According to party sources, over the past two days Mamata waited for a call from the Congress high command that never came. There were calls from Ahmed Patel and Janardan Dwivedi, but that failed to soften Mamata, who has demanded a rollback of diesel prices and an increase of subsidized LPG cylinders from 6 a year to 24, apart from a withdrawal of the FDO in retail.
Monday was also the end of the 72-hour deadline Mamata had set for the centre to announce a rollback.
"A phone call from prime minister Manmohan Singh could have relaxed the situation," remarked a minister of state.
If anything, positions in New Delhi seemed to have hardened in Monday, with the centre fielding finance minister P Chidambaram who declared these reforms are irreversible.
There are problems of a complete pullout though. She is going to face the panchayat polls in Bengal in 2013 and Lok Sabha polls in 2014. Without a supportive centre, it would not be very easy for her to take on these two challenges in successive years.
Bengal's finances too are in a mess with the state languishing in a classic debt trap and Mamata needs help from the centre just to run her administration.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.