The Mulayam gambit
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Sushma Swaraj teased Congress MPs during the Anna Hazare debate last August, saying, "As it is, the PM does not speak so please listen when he does say something". This advice can also be extended to listening to Pranab Mukhejee.
Pranab Mukherjee has been saying since the Budget that he had decontrolled petrol prices and that prices were going to rise to tackle the budget deficit. Yet no one took him seriously. Now it has happened. After months of criticising UPA for inaction, the charge now is that the raising of petrol price is too drastic an action. The question however is: Is this a turning point for UPA-II?
After months of recuperation since her secret visit to New York for some medical treatment, Sonia Gandhi is back in action. UPA-II has been drifting without a doubt but the third anniversary launch and dinner showed what a strategist Sonia Gandhi is. Having Mulayam Singh at the top sharing the platform and next to her at the dinner, gave a signal to Mamata Banerjee that she was not indispensable. The gesture signalled the start of UPA-II-and-a-half. Elections in 2014 are now being planned out. The UPA coalition partners are on notice.
This is why Pranab Mukherjee could signal to the petrol companies that a price hike was on. Indeed, it is time Indian petrol consumers got used to frequent changes in petrol price as happens in their local shops and dhabas. That is what decontrol means. The reaction of Mamata Banerjee was muted because of the Mulayam gambit. She needs a lot of financial help from the Finance Ministry to cope with her debt and deficit. Pranab Mukherjee has made no hard promises. He may yet be the Congress nominee for President. If so, the bargaining will have to be with a new FM, perhaps (P Chidambaram is my guess) to whom she has not been friendly as HM. So Mamata Banerjee has been fenced in pro tem.
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