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Sonia plans post-Puja trip to city

New Delhi, Sept. 4: Sonia Gandhi today said she would visit Calcutta after the Pujas to kick off the Congress campaign for the 2003 panchayat polls. She will address a public meeting at the Brigade Parade Grounds.

If her decision brought cheer to Congress leaders in Bengal, there was more good news. Jayanta Bhattacharya, the Trinamul Congress-backed Rajya Sabha MP, joined the party.

Bhattacharya’s return also brought former PCC chief Somen Mitra closer to the high command. He had fallen from grace after Bhattacharya defeated official Congress nominee D.P. Roy in 1999. The high command suspected that Mitra and his loyalists had cross-voted.

A beaming Bhattacharya described his decision as a “home coming”. “I believe that it is the Congress party under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi which can provide a good government to the country,” he said.

Mitra said Bhattacharya’s “homecoming” had “corrected” the wrong that had occurred during the Rajya Sabha elections.

Sources said Sonia is hoping that some Trinamul legislators, disillusioned with Mamata Banerjee’s blow-hot blow-cold relations with the NDA, would return to the party. But they added that the Congress chief does not want to burn bridges with Mamata.

The Pranab Mukherjee camp has again begun lobbying for a change of guard in Bengal unit. Mukherjee, who is reluctant to continue as PCC chief, is hoping Mitra will take over.

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