India’s Congress- led UPA government’s crisis continues as the Trinamool Congress (TMC), one of its major allies, refused to budge from its decision to withdraw support to the government Wednesday despite several attempts by the Congress leadership to negotiate a compromise to save the government.
Mamata Banerjee, the maverick leader of the TMC, withdrew her party’s support to the UPA government Tuesday, protesting against a slew of measures announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week to bolster the struggling economy. The reforms include a hike in the diesel price, a cap for subsidized Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders used as cooking fuel and FDI in retail, aviation and broadcast sectors.
Dumping the reforms and fuel price hike as “anti–poor,” Banerjee has asked her party’s six ministers to resign on Friday at 3 p.m., giving a 72-hour lease period, which the analysts are considering as a window period for negotiations.
The Congress held its core committee meeting Wednesday morning to discuss the resignations by the TMC ministers and a strategy to extract the government out from the depths of the political uncertainty. In the meeting, chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and PM Singh, it was decided to reach out to the TMC and convince the defiant party leader to reconsider her party's decision.
The Congress leaders claimed that the party and government had made several attempts to contact Banerjee but she had not responded to the messages so far. “We have tried to speak to her. The Prime Minister tried to speak. We left a message, but we have not heard anything,” Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters in Delhi.
The TMC leaders, meanwhile, denied that the government had tried to reach them.
The local television reports said the prime minister would stand firm on his government’s decision to go ahead with the FDI, but was willing to compromise on a partial rollback in diesel prices and increase the cap on LPG cylinders.
Following the meeting, the Congress asked the chief ministers in the Congress-run states to raise the limit for subsidized LPG cylinders from six to nine.
“Sonia Gandhi has spoken with the Chief Ministers of various Congress ruled states…they have been asked to increase the number of subsidized LPG cylinders from six to nine,” Congress spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi said, according to a FirstPost report.
The Trinamool is the second largest constituent of the UPA with 19 MPs and loss of its support will force the coalition government to depend on its other allies, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samajwdi Party (BSP). The SP with 22 MPs has announced their opposition to the government’s decisions but will reveal the party’s stand on support to the government after a meeting on Thursday.
"Tomorrow there is a meeting of the Samajwadi Party's Parliamentary Board. We will decide our strategy there," Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi Party told reporters.
If TMC's MPs resign, the strength of the UPA in the Lok Sabha will come down from 273 to 254, which is 19 short of majority in the Lok Sabha. However, the outside support of parties like the SP (22 MLAs), the BSP (21 MLAs), the RJD (4 MLAs) and the JD-S (3 MLAs) takes its strength to 304 in a House of 545.