Mamata Banerjee may not join the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre, but her party is still locked in hard negotiations with the Congress over ministerial berths. Accompanied by senior party leaders Dinesh Trivedi and Mukul Roy, Banerjee visited the Congress 'War Room', where negotiations are being held with the UPA allies on the portfolio distribution.
They remained closeted with Congress leaders A K Antony and Ahmed Patel for almost an hour. "There is no talk of bargaining (for ministerial posts). .... We have not discussed this. What they (Congress) want, they will do. Even if they don't give us anything, we don't mind," Banerjee told reporters after her meeting.
This was the third round of negotiations Banerjee had with top Congress leaders on the matter. but she has been publicly maintaining that the Trinamool Congress had no demands. However, sources said the party is keen on Railways, Coal and Mines and Steel portfolios which, it feels, are critical to the West Bengal economy.
It was also eyeing the portfolios of health and home affairs at the Minister of State level. Both Trivedi and Roy, who accompanied her to the Congress office, are the front-runners for Cabinet positions from the Trinamool Congress. The party is understood to be expecting at least two berths in the Union cabinet and three ministers of state.
The Trinamool supremo said she wanted her party's relations with Congress to "remain good. .... More important than ministerial positions is to have stable government."
After her meeting with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday, Banerjee held a round of discussions with Ahmed Patel last night. Today's meeting was the third round. Asked specifically whether she would like to become the Railway Minister, she said "we haven't spoken anything like that. There is no bargain."
She said "political atrocities are still continuing. We will have to work for development, stability, peace and secularism" and also promised to work for the development of industry and agriculture in the state.
Earlier, Leader of Opposition in West Bengal Assembly Partho Chatterjeee told PTI that Banerjee had made it clear that she would not hanker for ministerial positions.
"Our party has not set any conditions," he said and parried a question whether Banerjee herself would join the Cabinet saying, "I do not know because I am not part of the Trinamool Parliamentary party."
Senior leader Dinesh Trivedi said, "We are solidly behind the Congress and we want this government to last its full term of five years."