Is UPA trying to better Trinamool Congress ties?

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Having been put on the backfoot on key policy issues, the Congress-led UPA appears to be taking steps to improve its ties with the Trinamul Congress.

The TMC leaders claimed that finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has assured them to consider financial relief for debt-trapped West Bengal. This move, along with Mukherjee’s assurance to railways minister Mukul Roy for deferring implementation of service tax on freight, is being seen within the TMC as good steps on the part of the Centre.

TMC chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on a number of occasions made her displeasure known with the Centre for having done 'nothing' to give relief to the debt-trapped state.

“Finance minister has promised to consider relief for debt-trapped states, including West Bengal, Kerala and Punjab. This is a good step and our party will await Mukherjee to take actions on the promise at the earliest,” said a senior Trinamul Congress leader, who added that a moratorium on interest payments on loans for three years is one of the minimum expectation of the West Bengal government.

A week after the TMC had stalled FDI in retail, Union Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had cleared a special package of Rs 8,750 crores for West Bengal from the Backward Area Grant Fund, though the state government had sought Rs 19,000 crores.

After ensuring that party nominee in the Union Cabinet Dinesh Trivedi was evicted, while the new railways minister Mukul Roy rolled back most of the fare hike, the TMC also appears to be pleased with the assurance of the finance minister to defer implementation of service tax on freight. Mr Trivedi had hiked the rail freight few days before presenting the Rail Budget.

“The party was under pressure to do something about the freight rate, which is seen as adding to the inflation. Mr Roy has been assured that the service tax will not be made effective till July. This step will give some relief to the common man transporting their goods through the railways,” added the TMC leader.

While the UPA clearly appears to be taking steps to improve its relations with the allies, including the TMC, the Mamata Banerjee-led party is still not ready to relent on key issues.

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