New Delhi: Mamata Banerjee's ministers will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh around 4 pm today to resign from his government over the new reforms he cleared last week. They will then head to Rashtrapati Bhawan where they will formally withdraw their letter of support to the ruling UPA coalition in which Ms Banerjee's Trinamool Congress was the second-largest ally. Tonight, the PM will explain on television the economic measures for which he has staked his government, which is now in a minority.
The PM, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other senior leaders of the Congress will meet this evening at 5 pm to discuss their strategy. There is no immediate threat to the UPA, because external regional heavyweights Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati provide external support. With 43 MPs between them, they ensure the government has more than the 272 votes it needs to remain in power.
Because of that, the Prime Minister does not need to take a vote of confidence, said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.
Since Ms Banerjee announced her decision to drop out of the government earlier this week, Mr Yadav had hinted but not committed that his support to the government will continue. Today, he ended the suspense for the Congress by announcing that he will stand by the coalition while opposing its new economic reforms - like most parties, he has opposed the decision to open up the retail sector to foreign super-chains, increase diesel prices and limit the supply of subsidised cooking gas to households. He also said that his allegiance with the UPA is prompted by his commitment to keeping the "communal forces" of the BJP at bay.
Sources say that to appease other crucial partners like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, the government is likely to announce a 50 paise rollback in diesel prices, and increase the quota of subsidised cooking gas cylinders per household from six to nine, and that the decision was not shared yesterday to prevent opposition parties who called a massive nationwide strike from claiming credit for the concessions.