Mamata Banerjee, newly in the opposition, will lead a rally of her Trinamool Congress in Delhi on Monday next to protest against the decision to allow foreign direct investment or FDI in multi-brand retail.
The West Bengal Chief Minister today posted on Facebook, which she favours lately to communicate thoughts and plans, "Our fight for the cause of common people continues, with the help of 'Maa, Mati, Manush
' throughout the country. I am thankful to all of you for supporting our persistent protest against the unethical decisions on price hike of diesel, restriction of LPG cylinders, increase in fertiliser prices and permission of FDI in retail, which are not in the interest of the common people. On 1st October, we, on behalf of the All India Trinamool Congress, will be organising a demonstration at Jantar Mantar at New Delhi. We all will be present to highlight these issues and request the Central Government to withdraw the anti-people decisions."
She has exhorted people to join her rally at Delhi's Jantar Mantar at 1 pm on Monday.
Ms Banerjee walked out of the UPA government over this issue last week, taking with her the support of her 19 Lok Sabha MPs. The government was kept afloat by Mulayam Singh Yadav, who confirmed that his external support to the Congress-led government would continue. With his support and that of Mayawati, who have 43 MPs between them, the UPA is safely past the 272 votes it needs to remain in power. But Mr Yadav has also made clear that he too will continue to demand that the decision on FDI in retail be withdrawn.
Like other opposition parties and even allies opposed to this move of the government, Ms Banerjee has argued that allowing foreign mega-stores like Wal-Mart to set up shop in India will throttle the country's small retailers and farmers. On Friday last, as her six partymen who were serving as ministers in the Manmohan Singh government resigned and handed the President a letter finalising the Trinamool's divorce with the Congress. An aggressive Ms Banerjee said, "What will foreign companies do? They will first give cheap goods and later hike prices," and swore she would continue to do battle. "I am not afraid of anyone. As long as I live, I'll live like a tigress," she said in a quotable quote.
Though Ms Banerjee gave the government notice and an opportunity to withdraw its decision by announcing well in advance that she was in a mind to quit the government, the Prime Minster has been clear that there will be no going back on reforms this time. In fact in a pointed move, a day before her ministers were to quit, the government notified FDI in retail and other sectors making it law. An enraged MS Banerjee wrote on Facebook, "Is it ethical, moral and democratic for a minority government to issue government order forcibly and hurriedly when massive protests against it are taking place across the country?"
Also like most other parties, including the Left and the BJP, the Trinamool Congress has pointed out that the government assured Parliament that FDI in multi-brand retail would not be implemented till consensus was built among all stake-holders. These parties have sought that the issue be brought before Parliament and be debated to get a "sense of the House." Allowing FDI in retail is an executive decision and does not require Parliament's approval.
A day before clearing FDI in retail earlier this month, the government had announced another politically risky move - it raised diesel prices by Rs 5 or 14 per cent and limited the supply of subsidised cooking gas to households to six cylinders per year. Ms Banerjee has already led a protest in Kolkata against the reforms.