Mamata and co skip dinner, backbencher sent instead; Pawar, too, unable to attend. Allies warned amendment to Presidents Address could threaten stability of government.
FPJ NEWS SERVICE New Delhi
The Trinamool Congres
s has the UPA on an edge. After it recently dropped not- so subtle hints about mid- term elections, the party snubbed the Congress yet again with none of its senior ministers attending the dinner hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence.
To add insult to injury, Mamata Banerjee sent a junior Member of Parliament, Ratna Nag, to mark his partys token presence at the dinner.
Home Minister P Chidambaram explained that most of Trinamool leaders were ‘busy with the Assembly session beginning in West Bengal in the next couple of days.’Sharad Pawar, who heads the NCP, fainted in the Lok Sabha earlier in the day and was discharged from hospital in the evening; his deputy and Union minister Praful Patel turned up at the dinner instead.
At the get- together, the finance minister impressed upon the allies that their members should be present in the House and vote with the Government on critical issues. The allies were told that there was a ‘fair chance’that there could be voting during the debate on Presidents speech and the Budget. If an amendment on Presidents speech is voted or a cut motion moved on Budget, it could destabilize the government.
The government has every reason to be jittery, as both the DMK and Trinamool have sought amendments to Presidents speech. The Trinamool, for instance, wants a reference in the Presidents speech to the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre deleted. The DMKs amendment wants the Presidents address to reflect Indias stand on alleged war crimes by the Sri Lankan government. Though Banerjee has said that she remains committed to the UPA, her recent gestures suggest she is not lukewarm to exploring other options. She accepted invites to the swearing- in ceremonies for Akhilesh Yadav in UP and the Akali- BJP government in Punjab; the Congress took offense. Later, she said she would send representatives instead. More than 2,700 amendments to the Presidents Address have been submitted in both Houses in a bid to corner the government on issues like NCTC, federalism and corruption.