Delhi tests Mamata 'convergence' ground
May 2: Union urban development minister Kamal Nath met Mamata Banerjee in Delhi tonight and expressed hope that there would be "convergence" on the Congress's presidential candidate.
"Mamata will meet the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi. I hope there will be convergence at the meeting," Nath said when asked if he was confident about securing Trinamul's support for the presidential candidate. The two leaders were closeted in a 45-minute meeting at railway minister Mukul Roy's residence, where Mamata is putting up.
Although Mamata did not specify the dates, Trinamul sources said she was likely to meet Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia in Parliament tomorrow.
Before leaving for her four-day trip to Delhi in the afternoon, the chief minister told reporters at Writers' that her meeting with Sonia would be a "courtesy call". The Trinamul sources, however, said the upcoming presidential election could be on the agenda.
"I tried to meet her (Sonia) a number of times since she fell ill. This is nothing but a courtesy call. We haven't met for a long time. I have a personal relationship with her. During my visit to Delhi, I am going to see how she is doing since her recovery," the chief minister said.
On Saturday, Mamata will attend a meeting on the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
Mamata's planned meeting with the Prime Minister assumes significance in view of her demand of an urgent bail-out package for debt-stressed Bengal and with the Congress president for the ongoing political jockeying over the presidential election.
She will also meet finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to seek an assurance on her demand for financial assistance. The sources said Mamata was expected to meet foreign minister S.M. Krishna to discuss Hillary Clinton's visit and Teesta water-sharing with Bangladesh.
Asked whether she would discuss the presidential election with Sonia, Mamata said: "I have no agenda. I'm just going to meet her."
During her meeting with Singh, the Trinamul chief is expected to demand a three-year moratorium on payment of interest and a debt-restructuring plan.
She iterated that she was not asking for any favours or special grants from the Centre. "Punjab was given a moratorium from 2000 to 2006. Don't you think Bengal is also a state? We are not asking for anything special. Bengal deserves to get a moratorium. Before the Assembly elections, the Prime Minister had promised to bail Bengal out of its financial crisis," Mamata said.
"The previous CPM government had taken loans from wherever it could. Why did the Centre support this? They have to take the responsibility."
The meeting on the proposed NCTC was called at Mamata's request. She believes that the new body will infringe on the states' sovereignty.
Trinamul's stand on the presidential election and the NCTC will be keenly watched as the Congress is desperate to secure the support of its alliance partners to sail through on both counts. Mamata has so far remained tight-lipped on her choice of the next President and is believed to be keeping her cards close to her chest to use it as a handle to secure financial support for Bengal.
Given her compulsions back home, she is likely to focus on securing financial help.
Hours before Mamata landed in Delhi, railway minister Mukul Roy met leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley in Parliament.
Although Roy termed the meeting a courtesy call, it sparked speculation about Trinamul's role in the presidential election. "It was courtesy call to seek the leader of Opposition's support for smooth passage of demands for grants for the railways in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow," Roy said.