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Vajpayee keeps door open for Mamata

New Delhi, May 24: Indicating that doors are still open for Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Atal Bihari Vajpayee tonight said he would effect another “minor” shuffle “soon”.

As was earlier expected, the MDMK also did not join the NDA ministry today.

The Prime Minister denied the allegation that the BJP leadership was trying to split Trinamul. “There will be a minor reshuffle soon,” he told reporters after the swearing-in of the new ministers.

Vajpayee did not appear embarrassed or jittery after Mamata refused to come to Delhi to take oath as Cabinet minister in protest against the bid to induct her party colleague, Sudip Bandopadhyay.

Asked if he would have talks with Mamata, Vajpayee said “talks are underway”.

Dismissing the charge that attempts were being made to split the Trinamul, he said: “There is no intention of breaking the party. On the contrary, we want to give more representation to it.” Vajpayee said BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu had the final talks with Mamata. Denying that her consent was not sought before deciding to induct Bandopadhyay, the Prime Minister said he was told that “her opinion was taken”.

When a reporter asked if the the door is open for Mamata, Vajpayee, who had just been offered a plate of snacks, said in jest: “Mere liye ab khane ka darwaja khoola hai.” But he quickly added that Mamata “is in the NDA”.

Asked why Mamata gets angry frequently with the government, he said: “Samata wallah gadbad karthi hain (the Samata Party creates trouble).” Was it George Fernandes or Nitish Kumar, someone asked. Vajpayee parried the question.

(Mamata had earlier been wanting to get back railways but faced stiff resistance from her successor, Nitish Kumar.)

Asked if the induction of Swami Chinmayanand into the council of ministers was a message that the BJP was going back to hardline Hindutva, the Prime Minister said: “I took a step, it is up to you to find meanings.”

Vajpayee said a new minister from the MDMK will join his ministry. Vaiko’s MDMK has decided not to suggest a replacement for Gingee Ramachandran, who was forced to resign after the transfer-for-cash scandal broke.

following the arrest of his personal assistant on bribery charge.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu, who was also present at the swearing in ceremony said he had talked to Banerjee in the morning and the decision to defer induction of Trinamul members was taken at her request.

Naidu said the Trinamul chief had complained about not being properly consulted. “There appeared to be a communication gap. So I said we will have another round of consultations,” he said.

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