A meeting between Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra to discuss the much-awaited Central assistance for reviving the State’s finances was held in New Delhi on Tuesday evening.
The meeting took place against the backdrop of the Trinamool Congress-led cash-strapped State government showing distinct signs of impatience for a bail-out from the Centre.
The discussions would resume on Wednesday, Mr. Mitra said.
Mr. Mukherjee reportedly said on Monday that the Centre was working out a package to help the government find a way out of the financial malaise it had inherited from the Left Front government.
His remarks came after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed her displeasure with the Centre’s delay in releasing funds for the State.
In an interview to a Bengali television channel on July 30, Ms. Banerjee recalled that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised a special package for the State. “We are not begging for favours.”
She also referred to a comment Mr. Mukherjee allegedly made at a July 29 meeting with State Congress MLAs, and called it a criticism of the State’s performance. Mr. Mukherjee, however, denied having made the comment.
A clearly miffed Chief Minister, in the course of her interview with the channel, described Mr. Mukherjee’s reported remark as “unacceptable” and an “insult to Bengal.”
This was followed by Trinamool’s chief whip Sudip Bandyopadhyay calling on the Prime Minister a day later to convey to him Ms. Banerjee’s unhappiness with the delay. Dr. Singh had assured Mr. Bandyopadhyay that he would look into the matter.
That the Congress would not like to precipitate a situation that could have unsavoury political implications for the United Progressive Alliance government, in which the Trinamool Congress is the second largest constituent, is only obvious.
Moreover, the Congress needs no reminding that it will need all the support it can muster from its allies to get through major pieces of legislation in the monsoon session of Parliament.
Ms. Banerjee’s government has been looking forward to a special financial package from the Centre to bankroll several major projects it has committed itself to undertaking in the more than two months it has been in power.
That she is having to take care of the financial problems left behind by the Left Front government, which had “reduced the State to bankruptcy,” continues to be her refrain. Hindu