The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spotlight on Sudip irks Mamata

Calcutta, May 22: Mamata Banerjee today broke her silence on the raging speculation on her re-induction into the Central ministry, only to allow a peek into the bad vibes between her and party MP Sudip Bandopadhyay.

The Trinamul Congress leader appeared agitated that Bandopadhyay met deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani in Delhi on his own and voiced his opinion that she should speak to Central leaders on greater representation for the party in the Cabinet.

Bandopadhyay, it is learnt, parried questions from reporters on the possibility of his inclusion in the Cabinet along with Mamata, but maintained that more representation will be in Bengal’s interest.

Though he reportedly met Advani “on Mamata’s instruction” to bring to his notice the violence during the panchayat poll, Mamata said: “I have not instructed Sudip Bandopadhyay to go and meet the deputy Prime Minister. However, he is an MP and is free to meet Central leaders.”

At the press conference at Trinamul’s newly-built office on EM Bypass, Mamata flared up when told that senior BJP leader Vijay Malhotra had said in the city today that those who had stood by the BJP-led government in times of need will be considered for Cabinet berths. He was replying to questions on whether Bandopadhyay’s name was being considered along with that of the Trinamul chairperson.

“These are absolutely internal matters of our party and let us take our decisions. Enough is enough. I will not make any more comments on the issue. Thank you,” Mamata said and walked out of the room.

Observers said Mamata’s re-induction was certain. With little over a year to go for the Lok Sabha poll, the BJP needs a powerful ally in Bengal as the state unit is well aware that it will be difficult to grapple with the CPM without joining forces with the main Opposition party in the state.

“It appears that the Congress in all probability will forge an electoral alliance with the Left parties in Bengal to oust the BJP-led coalition at the Centre. Also, the saffron party needs to have an ally who has nine MPs,” said a senior Trinamul official.

Trinamul insiders said that soon after Tathagata Roy became president of the BJP state unit last September, he began working on the relationship between the two parties that had frosted during the tenure of his predecessor, Ashim Ghosh.

“I have basically tried to prevent a split of the anti-Left votes. When I initiated steps for better ties with Trinamul, Mamata responded positively and we gradually inched towards an understanding. But, I am not a fool, I had my party’s interest in mind too,” Roy said.

On the other hand, Mamata needs a Cabinet berth to hold her party together after the drubbing it got in the panchayat poll.

But aware that Bandopadhyay, too, is lobbying for a berth, Mamata has reportedly sent in a second name — that of MP Akbar Ali Khondakar, projecting him as the party’s Muslim face.

As for Bandopadhyay, he is learnt to have told his close circle that if Mamata “becomes a minister alone, I will no longer stake any claim”.

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