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She won’t pull out, but he can’t breathe easy

With the 72-hour-deadline set for the roll-back of 51 per cent foreign direct investment [FDI] in retail by the Trinamool Congress president and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee ending on Monday evening, political circles are abuzz as to what could be the next course of action for the largest constituent of the United Progressive Alliance [UPA] after the Congress. In the past two days, Banerjee has raised the level of criticism of the government, going to the extent of alleging 'Loot cholchhe, loot' [there is open robbery going on].

However, insiders say that there is a remote likelihood of her destabilising the government at the centre, though her criticism of the UPA policies could reach a higher pitch, thus continuously embarrassing the Manmohan Singh government. Her fresh pronouncements have created ample discomfort within the Congress too, where a section feels that given the ideological differences Banerjee could withdraw support. There is another section in the Congress, however, which is confident that she would continue to support the government but increase her criticism, projecting herself as a watchdog of the government.

Keeping the pitch of her criticism high, Banerjee asserted on her Facebook page that 'in a democratic set up, reforms must reach up to the poor and common people.'

She asserted, 'A series of unilateral and anti-people decisions might help in raising Sensex points only for the time being. I agree that Sensex must be stable, but at the same time, policy and planning should not be used to impose back-breaking burden on the common people. If black money is unearthed in the country, and brought back home from abroad and are used for development purposes, then Sensex will grow in an unparalleled manner.'

On Saturday, Banerjee along with party members held a protest in Kolkata against rise of diesel price and restriction of the number of subsidised LPG cylinder to be used annually. Expressing her views through social media, she said, 'Instead of continuing to burden the farmers and common people by way of increase in taxes and prices of diesel and petrol to raise resources, the Centre should now start thinking of utilizing large amount of black money lying in the country and abroad... A large amount of “benami” assets and funds  need to be unearthed. This can also be used for development of the country.'

Meanwhile, the principal opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] has tried to woo Banerjee afresh, provoking UPA allies and constituents to make clear where they stood on the revocation of the FDI in retail. Insiders said that Banerjee could announce that she would not allow multi-national mega-stores to function in West Bengal.
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