Mamta Banerjee's populist posturing has government in jitters news
20 February 2010

Prime minister Manmohan Singh, who has been successful in getting the issue of fertiliser subsidy addressed, is now making an attempt to get Tirnamool Congress around on the pitfalls of unbridled populism.

Banerjee has not yet yielded on her demand for funds from the central kitty to finance her populist promises in the forthcoming railway budget and although finance minister Pranab Mukherjee remained firm on his stand that the railways mobilise inhouse resources for the pet project, Banerjee has been able to force the cabinet to accept her projects on paper.

What has really upset many in the government is her demand of Rs100 crore for a railway television channel on the lines of the Lok Sabha channel started by Somnath Chatterjee which allows journalists who cannot make it to the press gallery, view proceedings in parliament on the small screen.

Meanwhile, Mukherjee is understood to have ticked off Banerjee on her insistence on a populist railway budget minus fare rise. Matters had reached a flash point when the proposal to change the subsidy regime for fertilisers was taken up for discussion according to observers.

Mukherjee had apparently sought to expose Banerjee's doublespeak as she had been seeking public-private participation in the railways. He said that while she was rooting for reform in her ministry she was opposing it in other areas of the government.

However, analysts say the feisty minister is giving the UPA jitters and as someone who aspires to be the next CM of Bengal, Congress leaders are of the opinion that she was not likely to help the government push 'unpopular decisions' like fare hike in railways even as she continued to add to the burden with new projects. According to some Congress leaders the railway budget would be populist.

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Mamta Banerjee's populist posturing has government in jitters