| Arun Jaitley
Calcutta, Sept. 8: Careful not to rub her the wrong way on her home turf, the BJP central leadership today slapped on the wrist of state BJP leader and Union minister Tapan Sikdar for targeting Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.
After downsizing Mamata in Delhi over the past two months, the BJP leadership appeared to be giving her space when party general secretary and spokesman Arun Jaitley hailed her as a crucial component of the anti-Left forces in the state.
Jaitley, who is believed to be a subscriber of deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s hardline stance on Mamata, virtually rubbished Sikdar’s contention that the BJP in Bengal would dispense with the fragile alliance with Mamata during the panchayat polls slated for early next year.
“We are not opposed to Mamata despite her present negative stand. We have to ensure that the anti-Left votes in Bengal are not divided at a cost to the campaign against the ruling communists,” Jaitley told a news conference here this afternoon.
However, at an earlier function, Sikdar reiterated that continuing with the Mamata alliance would be disastrous as “she (Mamata) is out to destabilise the BJP”. He also made it clear that the party’s state unit would not share the views of the central leadership on the issue.
BJP president Venkaiah Naidu and Union communications minister Pramod Mahajan have recently told party workers in the state that they had no problems with Mamata. They had also called upon party workers to put up a political fight against the Congress and the Marxists in Bengal and refrain from criticising Trinamul.
“We stand by what Mahajan had said about Mamata,” Jaitley said. “Sikdar might have opposed a possible alliance with Mamata considering the sentiments of the party’s rank and file across the state. But we cannot afford to split the anti-Left votes,” he added.
Jaitley, however, advised the Trinamul chief to see to it that alliance remained intact. “The situation is not happy in Bengal and we want Mamata to work seriously so that her party’s alliance with the BJP gets cemented in the coming days,” he said.
The leadership has worked out a strategy to revamp the party’s organisation in Bengal before the Panchayat elections, Jaitley said.
On a possible change of guards in its Bengal unit, the BJP spokesman replied in the negative. “There is no necessity for a shuffle in the present set up. Instead, we shall gear up the organisation from the grassroots level to face the communists.”
Leader of Opposition and Trinamul spokesman Pankaj Banerjee welcomed Jaitley’s observations. “We shall go by what the BJP’s central leaders are saying about us. We have decided to ignore people like Sikdar because of their orientation to the CPM,” Banerjee said.