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Tuesday 6 March 2012

Trinamul’s count-eve ‘trailer’ - Bengal MP demands larger tax share, Pranab reserves comment J.P. YADAV

Trinamul's count-eve 'trailer'

- Bengal MP demands larger tax share, Pranab reserves comment
With exit polls projecting big gains for the Samajwadi Party, attention was focused on whether Akhilesh Yadav or his father Mulayam Singh Yadav will become Uttar Pradesh chief minister if the party forms the government. PTI picture shows Akhilesh outside his home in Lucknow on Monday
New Delhi, March 5: The Trinamul Congress today angrily demanded a larger share of taxes from the Centre at a meeting convened to discuss the budget session, prompting many to interpret the tough posture on the eve of results as a "trailer" if the Congress does badly in the Assembly polls.
At the all-party meeting convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar before the budget session, Trinamul chief whip Kalyan Banerjee was learnt to have aggressively charged the Centre with ignoring the legitimate financial demands of states and sought a discussion on "financial availability" to the states during the budget session.
Sources said the Trinamul MP's attitude took Pranab Mukherjee, leader of the House and finance minister, by surprise.
Kalyan, who is unlikely to make such a forceful pitch without a directive from Mamata Banerjee, insisted that states should get the "lion's share" of the taxes. (From central taxes, the states now get around 30 per cent.)
The Trinamul MP also used the occasion to make a passing remark about how the legitimate demands of Bengal for financial assistance were being ignored by the Centre.
"The Centre is collecting taxes from the states but not sharing adequately with the states. The states should get the lion's share of the taxes," a source quoted Kalyan as saying at the meeting.
Mukherjee remained silent after Kalyan's outburst, the sources said. At the end of the meeting, when Speaker Meira Kumar asked if he wanted to say something, Mukherjee was quoted as saying: "I will not say anything today."
Many Opposition leaders echoed the Trinamul MP, which suggests that the government is staring at tumult if the Uttar Pradesh results leave the Congress defenceless.
The Congress is bracing for prolonged instability or mid-term polls if the worst-case scenario of the Samajwadi Party being able to form a government on its own comes true. One post-poll survey has projected up to 250 seats for the Samajwadi Party. (See chart)
"We have been asked by Mamata to raise Bengal's issue in a big way during the budget session and take on the Congress for ignoring the demand. We will also join hands with other parties over Centre-state relations and take on the Centre," a Trinamul MP said.
However, the strategy could be tweaked if the Congress performs reasonably well in the five states. If the Samajwadis need the Congress to form a government in Uttar Pradesh, any reciprocal arrangement in Delhi will ensure that the UPA is no longer dependent on Mamata for its survival. But the Congress may need Mamata for the mid-year presidential elections.
Kalyan later told The Telegraph: "I raised the issue of revenue sharing and demanded that states should get their due share since revenue is collected from the states. It is not a gift that the Centre is giving the states."
Asked how Mukherjee reacted to his demands, Kalyan said: "He did not say anything."
Apart from Kalyan, newly elected MP and Mamata confidant Subrata Bakshi participated in the meeting called by the Speaker to ensure smooth functioning of the budget session.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury also met Pranab Mukherjee today. At the meeting, described as routine before the budget session, the CPM leader is learnt to have urged the finance minister to wait for the poll results tomorrow.
Yechury, the Rajya Sabha leader of the CPM, met Mukherjee separately in his office as he arrived late from Maharashtra.
The finance minister is learnt to have sought the CPM's support in tiding over the tough economic situation because of the international crisis.
A source said the CPM leader felt that it would be better if the finance minister held such discussions after the election results were announced. "Yechury was right as the election results would have an impact on the budget. The results will also decide the stability of the UPA government," said a CPM leader.
Another source said Mukherjee sounded apprehensive about the possible stand of Trinamul during the budget session, which could block measures the Centre is planning to address the economic slowdown.
But Left leaders appeared excited over the posturing by Kalyan. "Kalyan's attitude surprised everybody at the meeting. It is good for us if the Congress gets into trouble," said a Left leader.

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