The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP-Trinamul pact hopes alive

Calcutta, Sept. 6: BJP president Venkaiah Naidu today did not rule out an electoral alliance with the Trinamul Congress in next year’s panchayat polls and promised steps to ensure the “organisational and social expansion” of his party to fight the Marxists.

Addressing a Meet the Press programme at Calcutta Press Club this afternoon, Naidu said he was not sure about Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee’s current stand on the NDA. “We never asked (the) Trinamul Congress to go out of the NDA. We always had a soft corner for the party as it has been fighting the CPM,” he said.

Asked if the state BJP would be able to combat the Left Front politically without Trinamul support, Naidu said: “We are not depending on (the) Trinamul Congress for our organisational and social expansion. Our only concern is not to allow a division in anti-CPM votes.”

On the state BJP’s relationship with Trinamul, Naidu said: “The BJP central leadership will provide necessary guidelines to the state unit, keeping in view the political reality in Bengal. We will think about poll alliances at the time of panchayat elections. We hope (the) Trinamul Congress, too, will be able to finalise its stand vis-à-vis our party by that time. We are not going to rush things.”

The BJP president also hinted at a subtle change in Mamata’s attitude towards the party’s apex leadership after her recent talks with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

Reacting to the Trinamul leader’s earlier allegation about Advani hijacking the Prime Minister’s office, Naidu said: “Advaniji’s elevation to the post of deputy Prime Minister is not a sudden development, but the culmination of a long process. As far as Mamataji is concerned, I don’t think she is holding the same view now.”

The BJP chief, however, ruled out re-consideration of the Cabinet decision on the bifurcation of Eastern Railway — the issue that led to Mamata’s parting of ways with the Central coalition. “The decision will ultimately benefit the people. We are ready to explain the situation,” Naidu said.

He came down heavily on the CPM-led government for its “failure to solve the problems of unemployment, industrial slump, urban-rural disparity and lack of healthcare”.

“Our party will play a progressively aggressive role to highlight these issues before the people,” he said.

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