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Panja sets terms for Mamata

Calcutta, Sept. 11: Rebel Trinamul Congress MP Ajit Panja today agreed to accept Mamata Banerjee’s leadership only if she “restores the status quo ante in the party as on March 15 last year” when it was still part of the National Democratic Alliance.

Panja, who was the Union minister of state for external affairs, had been compelled to quit the Vajpayee Cabinet against his wishes after Mamata decided to part company with the NDA on March 16 last year in the wake of the Tehelka episode.

Panja and his aides, like Tapan Dasgupta and Bani Sinha Roy, were subsequently suspended after they questioned Mamata’s political wisdom in quitting the NDA and challenged her leadership on the eve of the Assembly polls.

Panja, who led a “protest march” in the city to highlight “the Left Front’s misrule”, told The Telegraph that “restoration of unity” would become a possibility “only if there is a congenial atmosphere”.

“How can there be unity when we are under suspension'” he asked. Panja, who has been sharing platforms with the BJP, said he continued with the NDA despite the Trinamul chief’s stand to the contrary.

The rebel Trinamul MP, who courted arrest along with hundreds of his supporters near Lal Bazar this afternoon, demanded health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra’s resignation over the unfortunate deaths of several children at the B.C. Roy Memorial hospital. He also urged the government to take concrete steps to reopen the closed industrial units and overhaul the education system. “The state government has banned private tuition by school teachers without creating proper infrastructure to impart education to students,” he said.

Speaking on the significance of September 11, observed as “Anti-terrorism Day” across the world, Panja said: “The terrorist attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center on this day last year was, in effect, an attack on democracy. All the governments, including ours in Delhi, have taken suitable measures to deal with terrorism since then. However, the Left Front government has not taken any action to put an end to the CPM-sponsored political terror in West Bengal.”

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