New Delhi: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee appears to have softened her stance on the deadline for receiving a financial package for her debt-ridden state after talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday.
However, Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC), whose support is crucial for the ruling United Progressive Alliance to get its candidate elected in the upcoming presidential election, did not publicly disclose its preference for the post. TMC is a key ally of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.
Seeking assistance: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. By Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and vice-president Hamid Ansari are the front runners to succeed Pratibha Patil as president when she retires in July.
Banerjee, who had set 6 May as the deadline for the Union government to announce a three-year moratorium on the interest to be paid by West Bengal on central government loans, said she will not accept half-hearted measures as the state is facing an acute financial crisis.
“The Prime Minister is to work on solutions... if it is half-hearted, well, we will have to fight it politically,” Banerjee said after a half-hour meeting with Singh at his official residence in the national capital to discuss the moratorium. “We haven’t set any deadline, we will wait for sometime and then decide on a future course of action.”
A Union government official said the government has not made up its mind on the matter. “The government cannot announce moratorium. In fact, there is no provision in the constitution for such a move. Besides, it will be a bad precedent,” said the government official, who did not want to be identified.
On the presidential race, information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said Congress president Sonia Gandhi is talking to allies to reach a consensus. Some UPA allies said they are waiting for the Congress to announce its presidential candidate.
Meanwhile, differences have cropped up within the Left parties over whether they should back Mukherjee for the post. The parties began talks on the matter on Friday.