Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee is furious with the latest set of reforms that the Centre pushed last evening and has said she will meet the President with "an appeal to oust the UPA-II minority government". The Trinamool Congress chief said she would move a no-confidence motion against the government she plunged into a minority last month with her walkout and has appealed to its allies to oppose its decisions with the warning, "Every countryman is watching your action."
Ms Banerjee, who is also the Chief Minister of West Bengal, used her Facebook page to attack what she called the "immoral government." In a series of quotable quotes strung together, Ms Banerjee posted: "Yet another set of anti-people decisions of the Central Government have crossed the Laxman Rekha. These important decisions, which have direct bearing on the livelihood of millions of Indians, taken by a minority government, are immoral and unethical...the minority government cannot play such immoral role. Let us move No Confidence Motion. We have decided to meet the President on this issue."
In her appeal to UPA allies she also said,"Sarkar jaana jaroori hai, desh ko bachane ke liye... (The government should go in order to save the nation)."
Ms Banerjee is angry because the Manmohan Singh government approved a second set of bold reforms last evening. In the 21 proposals it cleared, one raises the cap on foreign direct investment in the insurance sector from the 26 per cent allowed at present to 49 per cent. Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the insurance sector needs huge capital that can only be got through FDI; most Indian insurance companies are either making losses or have slowed expansion plans to be able to report profits.
The Union Cabinet also approved the opening up of the pension sector, a move which will allow overseas investors to buy up to 26% in private pension fund managers. Mr Chidambaram explained though that if the proposal to raise the cap on FDI in insurance to 49% is cleared by Parliament, the cap on FDI in the pension sector will also go up to 49 per cent. All these proposals, however, need Parliament's approval to take effect.
Passing these Bills in Parliament will not be an easy task for the government, especially in the Raya Sabha, where the UPA does not have the numbers. Both Mamata Banerjee and the Left are fiercely opposed to the reforms. The BJP is playing wait and watch. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which give crucial external support to the Manmohan Singh government have been non-committal so far, Mulayam Singh Yadav's periodic anti-FDI assertions notwithstanding, and in that silence will lie much of the government's hopes. Its ally, the DMK, which is now its second-largest constituent, is opposed to FDI.
The BJP's role will be crucial and Mr Chidambaram reached out to the opposition party yesterday saying, "We will reach out to all political parties, especially the principal opposition party (BJP), to get the reforms bill passed (in Parliament). We will now discuss the official amendments with the principal parties. Legislation making in a Parliament where the government does not have majority is a process of discussion and negotiations."
The new set of reforms came about 20 days after the first, which had provoked Ms Banerjee to pull out of the UPA. Then, the government had allowed foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, a day after it raised the price of diesel and put a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders to six a year for each family.