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Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday led a demonstration at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to protest against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s policy on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail. She threatened to bring a no-confidence motion against UPA in the winter session of Parliament. Donning her “street–fighter” avatar, Banerjee said she would launch a “federal front” and travel across the country holding protest rallies, appealing to political parties such as the Samajwadi Party in UP and JD(U) in Bihar to support her. Significantly, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Convener and JD (U) chief Sharad Yadav on Monday joined Banerjee on the podium and described her as one the few “untainted leaders” in politics.
For her resolution on FDI in multi-brand retail, slated to come up in the winter session of Parliament, Banerjee is getting support not just from the JD(U), but also from UPA constituent Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
This means nearly half of Parliament, including members of the ruling UPA, will now be opposing FDI in retail. However, the government is unlikely to be affected, as the Left parties don’t want to be seen siding with the TMC. Sources indicate two separate resolutions might be moved, with neither entailing a vote.
Buoyed by the public backing of Yadav on Monday, Banerjee announced her pan-India designs at the protest rally — protest rallies in Haryana in early November, in Lucknow on November 17 and another in Patna.
Her designs on engineering a ‘Federal Front’ were evident as the party attempted to shed its regional tag and project itself as a “national” party. Sources say the TMC ensured on Monday’s rally drew crowds from neighbouring states such as Haryana and not its bastion of West Bengal. Its Rajya Sabha MP, K D Singh, originally from Chandigarh, did the needful.
According to NDA leaders, Banerjee had sent two TMC leaders, Mukul Roy and Sultan Ahmed, to meet Sharad Yadav before he left for Patna on September 25. The two TMC leaders asked for NDA support against the resolution on FDI and invited Yadav to take part in the protest rally at Janata Mantar.
Yadav said the NDA would support any resolution against FDI in multi-brand retail in Parliament.
“Mamata Banerjee wants to bring a resolution in Parliament and we have promised our support. Both Banerjee and Sharad Yadav have known each other for a long time and she also knows Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. So, it is a natural alliance,” said an NDA leader.
Appealing to all sections, including traders, government employees and the public, to join her in throwing out the “corrupt” government at the Centre, Banerjee said FDI in insurance and pensions, if implemented, would “come in and take away your savings”. “I am not afraid of anything. I am not afraid of going to jail or dying. I have faced bullets and been beaten but even then I work on the roads and in the sun among the common people,” she said.
BJP is keen to put the UPA government on the mat. Senior leader L K Advani is of the opinion the NDA should force the Centre to hold a special session of Parliament to discuss FDI in retail. Senior NDA leaders conceded Banerjee could be an important ally against the UPA and she could also join NDA at a later stage. This is not the first time Banerjee has got NDA support. During the Parliament session in December 2011, TMC members had joined hands with the NDA to put pressure on the Centre to give up its idea on FDI in retail. At that time, too, Yadav was instrumental in the NDA’s tie-up with the TMC. During the debate on the Lok Pal Bill, TMC members had supported the BJP-led NDA’s demand to set up Lokayuktas independent of the Lok Pal.
TMC members had met Arun Jaitley, opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, to raise their concerns on the Lok Pal Bill.