The three-year-long tussle between the Congress and Trinamool Congress has reached a new stage with the latter deciding to pull out its Ministers from the UPA-II Cabinet.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s eagerness to keep up her image as an anti-reform politician and her struggle to find a separate national identity for her party has often resulted in clashes with the UPA Government and the Congress.

As Railway Minister, the first thing she did was to bring out a White Paper dismissing the claims of her predecessor Lalu Prasad that the Railways was making profits. The White Paper said the traffic growth performance had been below par for the entire period under UPA-I. This raised not just the eyebrows of her predecessor, but of the Congress too.

Then, she was reluctant to co-operate with the Government’s efforts to make the Railways an engine of growth. She refused to increase passenger fares, even after recommendations from various expert panels. Frequent accidents damaged the image of the Government. There were allegations that she was more focused on her campaign against the then Left Front Government in West Bengal than the functioning of Railways.

Her party colleague Dinesh Trivedi succeeded her in the Ministry. But he had to quit the Ministry as he supported a hike in rail passenger fares. Soon after the Budget, Banerjee’s confidante, Mukul Roy, assumed the office and ensured that the decisions were revoked. The episode apparently embarrassed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress leadership.

Mamata then opposed the decontrol of petroleum, fertiliser and sugar prices. After the hike in petrol prices last year, she warned the Centre that she would withdraw support if the prices were increased again.

She is opposed to FDI in retail sector, aviation and in media. She has been complaining that the UPA never consulted them on crucial policy decisions. It is on her insistence that the Congress formed a mechanism to hold consultations with allies. She opposed the Lokpal Bill, Pension Bill, Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill and Insurance Bill.

She also gave the Congress a tough time during the Presidential polls.

The Congress, too, has been opposing her decisions and even held open protests against the coalition Government in West Bengal.

jigeesh.am@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 18, 2012)
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