The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata to skip NDA party

Calcutta, Oct. 24: Mamata Banerjee will skip tomorrow’s rally in Delhi to celebrate the National Democratic Alliance’s three years in power at the Centre.

The Trinamul Congress leader received the invitation from coalition convener George Fernandes about three days ago, but told close aides she could not attend any NDA programme till the railway zone bifurcation was rolled back. A formal regret letter has been sent to Fernandes.

“How can I attend the rally when, like other ministers, Nitish Kumar (railway minister) will be projecting the creation of new railway zones as an achievement'” Mamata told her aides. She said she is unlikely to visit Delhi before Diwali.

The rally is part of the NDA government's week-long campaign to highlight its achievements over the past three years.

Party general secretary Mukul Roy said the working committee had met on August 13 and unanimously decided that Trinamul would not be “part and parcel” of the NDA till the railway split issue was sorted out “with satisfaction”. “So there is no question of our leader Mamata Banerjee attending tomorrow’s NDA rally.”

The bifurcation of railway zones has been a severe blow to Mamata. “How can she go and take part in a celebration where she will be silently mocked by Nitish Kumar and his supporters' Ministers of various departments, including the railways, will tell their success stories and Nitish Kumar’s speech is likely to rub salt into Mamata’s wounds,” a party source said.

Another party leader said that Mamata had antagonised the NDA leadership by launching agitation programmes and calling a Bangla bandh against the bifurcation.

Mamata has been facing rough weather within the party over her decision to delink from the ruling coalition, with even close aide and MP Sudip Bandopadhyay turning against her. Sources close to her said that if Bandopadhyay weans away just one MP, he can split the party without violating the anti-defection law. Ajit Panja has already revolted against Mamata and would happily join hands with the rebels.

The Trinamul chief is busy trying to keep her flock together. She has held a series of meetings with party MPs Bikram Sarkar and Nitish Sengupta over the past two months to persuade them to stay with her.

To gauge the public mood since the railway bifurcation, Mamata has decided to hold a rally at Brigade Parade Grounds on January 8.

Partha Chatterjee, MLA and party general secretary, said the rally would highlight the “economic and political bankruptcy” of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government.

“We have asked supporters to write colourful graffiti on walls in support of the rally and paste hand-written posters. We want to make our Brigade rally as colourful as possible because on January 1, Trinamul will celebrate its sixth birthday as well,” he added.

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