KOLKATA: THE much-hyped ‘ultimatum’ of Trinamool Congress on the issue of petrol price hike proved to be a mere short-lived media exercise after the party MPs met the prime minister and meekly accepted his argument. Even more, TMC MPs and union ministers refrained from demanding an immediate roll back of the increased prices.
Mamata Banerjee, TMC chairperson and West Bengal chief minister exhibited an angry reaction after the recent hike in petrol prices. She argued that she was not consulted. Her allegation was that her party, though an ally in UPA, was not being consulted on major policy issues. She threatened that her party might pull out from the UPA ministry.
Immediately, there was a hue and cry. It was also reported in a section of the media that TMC central ministers have submitted their resignations to party chief.
Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee played a spoiler when he asserted that the decision to decontrol prices of petrol was a collective decision of the union cabinet and TMC was very much a part of it. Left parties in West Bengal questioned the stand of TMC as they had supported 16 such hikes after they began to support UPA. The cut in petro products subsidy in the last union budget was supprted by TMC and Mamata was a member of the union cabinet at that time.
Finally, TMC MPs met the prime minister on November 8 at his Race Course residence. By then, the exhibited anger had evaporated. Trinamool Congress leader and union minister of state for health, Sudip Bandopadhyay, who led the delegation said, “We will not digest any further hike in petrol prices. In that case we will have to rethink our alliance with the UPA.” So, it is now “another hike”.
Some observers have pointed out that Mamata Banerjee was trying to pressurise the centre on a “package” for the state. The sudden outburst over the hike in petrol prices was just another ploy to bargain with centre. That too proved to be non-starter after the chief minister’s meeting with Pranab Mukherjee in Kolkata.
While TMC was meekly surrendering on petrol price hike, the West Bengal chief minister's temper was on display elsewhere. At the receiving end was the Kolkata Police Commissioner and top ranking police officers. Mamata Banerjee directly intervened and threatened those officers for arresting two members of her party for rioting and arson.
The incident occurred on Monday night after the chief minister unexpectedly stormed into a city police station and forced the release of two Trinamool workers. They had been arrested after an altercation with the police over bursting crackers outside a cancer hospital. A mob had even ransacked the police station, police cars were attacked and buses were stoned after the two men were detained.
But to everyone's shock, the chief minister rushed, within minutes, into Bhawanipore police station, which falls under her constituency as well, shouted at the police officers and ordered the release of Tapas Saha and Sambhu Sau. No case has been registered against them. Both of them are local TMC workers and close associates of chief minister’s brother. In fact, it has been alleged that the chief minster’s brother was involved in the violence that took place near the police station.
Now, it is the turn of police officers who have ‘dared’ to chase away TMC hooligans from the police station. They may be implicated in departmental enquiry and would have to face the music. CPI(M) state secretary Biman Basu has termed the incident as a brute example of the partisan administration in the state.
Addressing a press conference in Kolkata, CPI(M) central committee member Md Salim has slammed the chief minister for allegedly pressurising the police. "It is reprehensible that the chief minister, who holds the Home (Police) department, herself stormed into a police station to force the police to release two detained persons," he said.
"The chief minister led her party workers for the release of the detained persons, who are her brother's associates, from the police station by force," the CPI(M) leader alleged.
West Bengal chief minister’s annoyance is perfectly
measured: one for the prime minister and one for the
People's Democracy, November 13, 2011