New Delhi, Sep 17: There was little sign of consensus Monday as the Congress attempted to smoothen tensions with ally Trinamool Congress while the opposition dug in its heels and prepared for the Sep 20 shutdown against the big three issues — foreign equity in multi-brand retail, hike in diesel prices and restricting subsidised gas cylinders.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left prepared for the Sep 20 nationwide shutdown and Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) reiterated categorically that it would “oppose tooth and nail” foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail in the state. On the other end of the spectrum, the Congress tried hard to reach out to Trinamool.
Sounding a conciliatory note, Congress spokesperson Renuka Choudhary said the government was negotiating with its allies and expressed the hope that both sides would understand each other’s compulsions.
“Negotiations are on… we understand the compulsions of our allies and expect them to understand our compulsions,” Choudhary told reporters, indicating that it was trying to bring Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee on board.
“We appreciate her compulsions,” she said, referring to Banerjee.
Top-most leaders of the Congress were in touch with the chief minister but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had not called her so far, said Minister of State for Tourism and Trinamool leader Sultan Ahmad.
The Samajwadi Party, which props the UPA government from outside, has said it would be part of a nationwide protest along with the Left, Telugu Desm Party, Biju Janata Dal and Janata Dal-Secular.
In Kolkata, informed sources said Trinamool could pull out its six ministers from the central government but continue to provide outside support to the Congress-led UPA if her demands were not met by Tuesday when party MPs meet in Kolkata.
With 19 Lok Sabha members, Trinamool is the second largest constituent of the UPA after Congress.
Indicating an unease within the Congress, former union minister Virbhadra Singh urged party president Sonia Gandhi to review the central government’s decisions to hike the price of diesel by Rs.5 a litre and capping of domestic LPG. He also demanded a rollback of the decision.
Congress’ Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit tried to make up by promising three extra LPG cylinders for the poor beyond the six subsidised cylinders from the central government.
In the opposition camp, the BJP said its proposed bandh on Sep 20 was getting the support of the people.
“We are getting spontaneous support of the people for the bandh. The government’s recent decision allowing FDI has shaken the conscience of the nation,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters.
The BJP has accused the government approved FDI in retail to divert attention from faulty allocation of coal mines many of them given to politicians and their relatives.
BJP’s ally JD-U and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said categorically: “There is no question of allowing FDI in retail in Bihar…. it will be opposed tooth and nail.”
He, however, said in Patna that he did not foresee early elections as none of the allies would withdraw support from the UPA.