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Friday, 16 March 2012

Trinamul fights govt, Pranab rings alarm Vote warning to allies J.P. YADAV


http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120314/jsp/nation/story_15248175.jsp 

Trinamul fights govt, Pranab rings alarm 
Vote warning to allies

J.P. YADAV
Pranab Mukherjee
New Delhi, March 13: The Trinamul Congress today moved amendment motions in both Houses against the President's budget session speech, prompting Pranab Mukherjee to sound a warning about the government's survival if the allies continued to behave this way.
The development came on a day Trinamul seemed bent on tormenting the government inside and outside Parliament, and then snubbed it by sending a lone, lightweight MP to a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister and a UPA meeting that preceded it.
Pranab's warning came at the dinner and was in reference to Trinamul and the DMK moving separate amendments to the President's address. Trinamul wanted the deletion of a paragraph mentioning the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), while the southern ally was demanding a reference to rights violations against Tamils in Sri Lanka.
"If you press your amendments, the Opposition could use that to its advantage and demand a vote. This could endanger the government. The government can fall if it gets defeated in the vote," the finance minister and Lok Sabha leader is learnt to have told the allies, nudging them to withdraw their motions.
Sources said the Trinamul representative at the dinner, the little-known Hooghly MP Ratna De Nag, merely told Pranab: "I shall convey whatever you have said to my leader Mamata Banerjee."
The government, however, appeared ready to relent over controversial provisions of the NCTC that Mamata Banerjee and many other chief ministers see as an infringement on the states' domain, sources said.
The government is learnt to have proposed a short discussion in Parliament on the NCTC to get the views of Trinamul and other parties. Chidambaram has called a meeting of chief ministers on April 16.
At the dinner, Pranab impressed on all the allies the need for full attendance in the House keeping in mind the importance of the scheduled business. Home minister P. Chidambaram too told reporters that there was a "fair chance" of voting during the debates on the general and railway budgets and on the motion of thanks to the President's address.
These cautionary remarks capped a day during which Trinamul behaved more like an Opposition party in the Houses, and then announced a dharna on Parliament's lawns on Thursday to protest the way the Centre was "depriving" Bengal of financial assistance.
The incidents seemed to belie Mamata's assertion that her party would stand by the government following the setbacks the Congress had suffered in the recent state elections.
It was in the background of the poll reverses that Manmohan Singh had called a meeting of the UPA partners, to be followed by a dinner at his 7 Race Course residence. Parties extending outside support, such as the Samajwadi Party, BSP and the RJD, were not invited to keep it a close-knit affair.
But Trinamul sent De Nag to register a token presence despite ministers and senior leaders such as Sudip Bandopadhyay and Saugata Roy being present in Delhi.
Late tonight, Trinamul MP Derek 'Brien tweeted: "Dr Ratna Nag who attended PM dinner is our Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha. She is a lady & in our party we respect all. She is a key member of TMC."
Even railway minister Dinesh Trivedi, Trinamul's only cabinet member, stayed away from the meeting and the dinner, saying he was busy with the railway budget.
Trinamul's slow torture of the Congress had started from Parliament. Its Lok Sabha chief whip rose during Question Hour, ostensibly to ask a supplementary question on the NCTC, but instead demanded the proposal to establish the counter-terror body be dropped immediately.
"The NCTC encroaches upon the federal rights of the states. The government should withdraw it immediately," Kalyan Banerjee said.
Chidambaram promised a debate but Kalyan carried on saying: "No need for debate; it should be withdrawn."
Kalyan and a Trinamul Rajya Sabha MP then moved the amendment motions in their Houses.
Participating in the debate over the motion of thanks to the President's address, Kalyan made no reference to the speech and devoted himself to castigating the government over issues such as Centre-state revenue-sharing and financial assistance for Bengal.
Sudip later said Thursday's dharna would be held under the Mahatma's statue on the Parliament premises.
"We will raise slogans and hold placards to protest how Bengal has been deprived and appeal to the Prime Minister to help the state," Sudip said.
Although the DMK too moved an amendment to the President's speech, its overall behaviour differed from Trinamul's. It sent its leader in the Lok Sabha, T.R. Baalu, to the Prime Minister's dinner. Another key ally, the NCP, sent heavy industries minister and senior leader Praful Patel.
The government moved to appease its smaller partners, Chidambaram promising their members more time to speak in Parliament than the two or three minutes they get now. "That was appreciated by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh…. The Congress party has agreed to give its chunk of time to smaller parties so that their members can speak for at least seven or eight minutes," he said.

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