The resignation by the Union Ministers of the Trinamool Congress and the Congress Ministers in West Bengal immediately announcing that they will also resign has signalled the snapping of all ties between the two parties.
Clearly, Trinamool chairperson Mamata Banerjee had run out of options when she announced her decision to withdraw support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government earlier this week.
Ever since the UPA II came to power, Ms. Banerjee, whose political career has hinged on her opposition to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), functioned as somewhat of an opposition within the government. The three-year-long electoral alliance, punctuated by frequent threats, has seen her oppose the Congress on various issues till she reached breaking point.
Last year, the State leadership of the Congress found itself in the same spot – openly criticising Ms. Banerjee on various issues, including farmer suicides, law and order situation and attempts at suppression of freedom of expression, even as the party continued to be part of her government.
The two parties have moved away from each other in the rural polls that are just months away and the recent diesel price hike, restriction in LPG cylinders and FDI in retail, only forced her hand to sever all ties.
Ms. Banerjee has said pulling out her ministers while continuing to provide outside support to the UPA – an option that political pundits had suggested was most likely before the party went into a huddle on Tuesday – would have been “a half-hearted decision.”
With rural polls round the corner, Ms. Banerjee could not afford to go to the electorate while still being culpable for the “anti-people policies” of the UPA government, of which her party was the second largest constituent. Ms. Banerjee had to be free of any liaison with the Congress, given its record on issues such as corruption, inflation and recent economic reforms – particularly since her bête noire, the Left had taken the lead in campaigning against the Centre on these very issues.
Her claims that her party was not informed before these decisions were announced, were already being described as “match-fixing” by the CPI(M) leadership as initially Ms. Banerjee and later Trinamool Congress general secretary Mukul Roy remained absent from the meetings where they were taken.
Ms. Banerjee’s assertion that “we are a self-sufficient party” is an indication of what may be expected of her in the Lok Sabha elections, but the decision to pull out of the Centre was not without its costs.
She has lost all prospects of a special financial package to the West Bengal government – a proposal that has been doing the rounds ever since the Trinamool Congress-led government came to power.
Secondly, the loss of the Railway portfolio has not only raised doubts about the future of the several projects announced for the State, but the Trinamool has also lost the springboard from where it could promote itself.
Reworking the political equations between the Congress and the Trinamool in West Bengal will also influence the voting pattern in the coming elections. The 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the 2011 Assembly elections had witnessed a consolidation of the anti-Left vote in favour of the electoral alliance between the two parties. It remains to be seen how the Trinamool will work the arithmetic if the vote is again split.