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State BJP at odds with Delhi

Calcutta, Sept. 7: Sharp differences between the BJP’s central leadership and its state unit over the party’s relationship with Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee came to the fore at the two-day zonal conference that began at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here today.

BJP chief Venkaiah Naidu said the party has “no problem with Mamata”. State BJP leader and Union minister of state for fertilisers and chemicals Tapan Sikdar, however, felt there could be no alliance with Trinamul under Mamata’s leadership.

“Samata may have some problems with Mamata, but we have no such problem with her,” Naidu told party workers in his inaugural address.

Sikdar, however, launched a frontal attack on the Trinamul leader, saying the BJP should not have any truck with her as she has refused to accept Vajpayee’s leadership. “Our party workers in West Bengal will prefer to have an alliance with the Trinamul Congress under Ajit Panja’s leadership,” he observed about the rebel Trinamul MP who was present at the conference on the BJP’s invitation.

Other leaders like Union communications minister Pramod Mahajan, information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj and general secretary Rajnath Singh urged party activists to work against both the Congress and the Marxists in Bengal, but refrained from criticising Mamata.

The central BJP leaders preferred to hit out at Congress president Sonia Gandhi on her “foreign origin”. Singh felt ADMK chief Jayalalithaa has raised a pertinent question.

“She is absolutely right when she says that only an Indian by birth can become the country’s Prime Minister,” asserted Singh.

The leaders described the BJP as the “largest democratic party in the country” and criticised Congress workers for accepting “dynastic rule and depending on a particular family for their political survival”.

The BJP president said there was hardly any difference between the Congress and the communists as both parties had been maintaining “double standards” on contentious issues.

“They have opposed the anti-terror legislation promulgated by the Centre, but do not hesitate to follow a similar law in the states ruled by them,” said Naidu.

Trinamul row

Mamata today pulled up the party’s chief whip Sudip Bandopadhaya for “hobnobbing with the BJP” and inviting Mahajan for a party at his residence.

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