Mamata is miffed again and this time the issue is more serious than even
FDI in retail, Lokpal Bill or National Counter Terrorism Centre. The Chief
of the Trinamool Congress, a key ally of the UPA Government at the Centre,
has opposed the railway budget proposed by none other than a minister of
her own party. Her “unjust” posturing and “confrontationism” have
been the talk for many months now and today was no different.
Railways Minister Dinesh Trivedi announced a nominal hike in train ticket
fares today - the first in eight years - has told him to either resign
or rollback the increased prices. Her stubbornness today has caused
embarrassment not just for Trivedi, but for the UPA as well. The Prime
Minister praised Trivedi's Railways budget, describing it as
"forward-looking with emphasis on safety and modernisation."
is not the first time that the West Bengal Chief Minister is acting
difficult. There is a consistency in her opposition to major policies of
the UPA ranging from FDI in retail, fuel price hike, Lokpal Bill, the
Teesta water dispute and more recently the NCTC. Last month, Mamata
secured an assurance from the Prime Minister to put on hold the National
Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) till consultation with states was over and
consensus reached, clouding the Centre’s plan to get the anti-terror
body off the ground by March 1.
“Provisions in the executive
order infringe upon the rights of states. I asked the Prime Minister to
put the order on hold till the consultation process with states was not
over,” Mamata said after meeting the Prime Minister.
media release issued later did not specifically mention such an assurance
but with Mamata going public, the Centre is unlikely to push ahead without
consensus, especially in the middle of the budget session. This was thus
the fourth UPA initiative to have run into the Mamata wall after the
Teesta water-sharing agreement, foreign direct investment in retail and
the Lokpal bill.
Even on the issue of the
Lokpal Bill, the Trinamool did nothing to help the government out of the
logjam in the Rajya Sabha. Mamata stuck to her stand that it should be
left to the states to set up Lokayauktas on models they choose.
In December, the Manmohan Singh government for the first time
conceded on record that “there are differences” with the Trinamul
Congress, a complaint so far aired in informal conversations. “There are
differences with Trinamul and we need to sit together and sort them out.
But I don’t believe in taking such a radical view… like confrontation
as you said,” Union home minister P Chidambaram had said.
government’s decision to put the grouse on the table was seen as a sign
of growing unease with the ally, though senior ministers carefully chose
polite expressions and explicitly demonstrated intent to repair the
relationship. The terms of engagement with Mamata could have changed if
the Congress had done well in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. But
after the party’s debacle, things will only get tougher. Trinamool’s
stranglehold on the Centre will remain.