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Sep 18, 2012, 03.35 PM IST
Mamata Banerjee has threatened to take a tough decision and Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-In-Chief of CNN IBN feels TMC may want to send a strong signal but cannot quit UPA.
while Mamata wants to send out a strong signal to the UPA, a complete pullout where she has no option of returning seems something that she is unlikely to do
The government obliged an ailing economy with a slew of reforms but, the Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had given a 72-hour deadline to the government to roll back fuel price hike, LPG cap and FDI in retail. She has threatened to take a tough decision and Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-In-Chief of CNN IBN feels TMC may want to send a strong signal but cannot quit UPA.
Sardesai said he does not expect TMC to withdraw completely from UPA at this point. In order to placate TMC, the government may relent a bit on LPG, he added. Besides, Congress can approach BSP and SP as a 'Plan B'. The Congress is already reaching out to SP as a potential ally and there is no broad consensus within the party on reforms, explained Sardesai.
Here is the edited transcript of the interview on CNBC-TV18.
Q: What are you expecting from Mamata Banerjee today?
A: It’s a tough one. Bengalis are tough to predict and Bengali women like Mamata even more difficult to predict. I have almost given up on predicting Mamata Banerjee and her various moves. The sense I get though is that Mamata's options are not great at the moment. She could of course in a moment of temperamental anger quit this government and withdraw support.
But where does she go? She can't be part of the NDA. She has a large Muslim constituency in Bengal today. She can't be part of the third front as long as the left is part of the third front. The sense I get is that while Mamata wants to send out a strong signal to the UPA and to her constituency that she has distanced herself from the government and its decisions on diesel, LPG, FDI in retail, a complete pullout where she has no option of returning seems to me something that she is unlikely to do.
She is at one level a very pragmatic politician and pragmatism would tell her that her future in some way lies in some kind of a loose relationship with the UPA. How loose will that relationship be is the question. Can she for example withdraw her Union Minister Mukul Roy from railways and half a dozen MOSs that she has as a first step? Can she make this an incremental withdrawal rather than a drastic step?
The sense I get is that is the direction in which Mamata is heading. She is hoping to get something from the centre in the next few hours. That might make this process a little easier for her. But I don't see a complete angry withdrawal that leaves no scope for return to the UPA.
Q: Do you think the government will offer her some kind of an exit option from her very rigid stance by even offering her something like a Rs 1.5 of diesel price rollback, just so that she has a bit of a face saver to back off?
A: Absolutely. There is a need for a face saver for Mamata Banerjee and one of the face savers which is being talked about is the LPG subsidy limit, which can be raised from 6 cylinders to 12 cylinders. We have already seen the Congress government in Delhi do it.
We have already seen KV Thomas, the Food Minister write to the Prime Minister on this. There is a broad consensus even within Congress that this limit of 6 is untenable particularly as you head into elections. The election-bound states are particularly keen that this limit be increased. I get a sense that that is one shop that could be offered to her.
Diesel at the moment seems unlikely. We know that global crude prices are rising again and Chidambaram yesterday went out of his way to say that there would be no rollbacks and I presume he meant diesel primarily. But LPG is one area where there could be a reach out to Mamata Banerjee. There has also been this talk of a Bengal financial package. Obviously overtly it cannot be said, but there is a sense that some kind of a short-term loan is being offered to Mamata Banerjee quietly.
Amit Mitra is the Finance Minister who is supposed to be in Delhi today-tomorrow and maybe there will be negotiations with the centre on that. The sense one gets is a lot of this will happen backroom because the government wants to send out the message that it isn't rolling back. Mamata Banerjee on the other hand also wants to send out the message that she isn't succumbing. But I do see some attempt being made in the next few hours to find some halfway house approach.
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