Trinamool MPs to meet PM on fuel price hike

Kolkata/Jalgaon: Ratcheting up pressure on the government to rollback petrol price hike, MPs of Trinamool Congress, which has threatened to pull out of government, will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday even as another key ally, NCP, backed him on the issue.

"After a talk with the Prime Minister, we`ll return to Kolkata on November 9 and report to party supremo Mamata Banerjee who will take the final call", Chief Whip of the Trinamool Congress parliamentary party in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandyopadhyay said.

"I have sent a letter to the PMO seeking an appointment with the premier on November 8. I am expecting that the appointment will be fixed on November 8 since the PMO told me that he will be abroad on November 9", said Bandyopadhyay, also union minister of state for health.

In Jalgaon in Maharashtra, NCP chief Sharad Pawar. however. backed the government on the issue. "There is no point in blaming the government for increase in the domestic prices of fuel as they are related to fluctuations in the international markets," Pawar said defending the Prime Minister on deregulation of the fuel prices.

On Trinamool Congress` threat to withdraw from the government, Pawar said, "Our stand is to remain with the government." Asked to comment on the Prime Minister`s remarks on deregulation, Pawar said Singh was an economist of international repute. "I am not a super economist to comment on what the Prime Minister has stated," he said. Singh has defended the hike in petrol prices, saying there should be further movement towards deregulation of fuel prices.

Bandyopadhyay said he would leave for Delhi and other Trinamool MPs would be reaching the capital on November 8. "We`ll express our concern to the Prime Minister. There is huge lack of co-ordination among the constituents in the UPA. No meeting is held with the allies before taking policy decisions. We want to express our sentiments to the prime minister. We are a pro-people party. Fuel prices were hiked 11 times in 12 months", he said.

Mamata Banerjee has threatened to quit the UPA on the contentious issue. With her 18 Lok Sabha MPs, Banerjee is the Congress` second largest ally in the UPA. Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi is the only Cabinet minister from the party. Other Trinamool ministers are Mukul Roy, Sudeep Bandopadhyay, Saugata Roy, CM Jatua, Sisir Adhikari and Sultan Ahmed.

State-owned oil companies had on Friday increased the price of petrol by Rs. 1.80 per litre, the second raise in less than two months. The hike in petrol prices led to allegations of a "midnight massacre" by the BJP. The hike has also come under flak from Mayawati in UP, J Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu and leaders of several other political parties.