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Mamata knocks on Advani door

New Delhi, June 24: Left out in last month’s Cabinet shuffle, Mamata Banerjee is trying to mend fences with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani amid rumours of yet another revamp in the first week of July.

The Trinamul Congress leader, whose induction into the Union Cabinet was stalled by a powerful section in the BJP, held a 30-minute meeting with Advani last night and a tête-à-tête with defence minister George Fernandes this evening.

She may not have wangled an assurance on her induction, but Mamata managed to get Advani to accept an invitation from the Calcutta mayor to lay the foundation stone of a gate on the lines of India Gate on July 6.

The occasion would coincide with the birth anniversary function of Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee which Advani is scheduled to attend. It is not clear if Mamata chose the date deliberately so that the BJP leader could not say no to the mayor’s function.

Sources say Advani might use the opportunity to have a chat with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who would attend the function.Mamata held a 20-minute meeting with Advani in the presence of party MPs Dinesh Trivedi and Mukul Rai to apprise him of the CPM’s “atrocities” in Bengal. She also had a 10-minute, one-to-one session with the BJP leader which fuelled speculation that she may have used the opportunity to convince Advani of the need to keep party rival Sudip Bandopadhyay out of A.B. Vajpayee’s council of ministers.

Trinamul sources, however, said Mamata only demanded Central intervention in Bengal to stop the “murder of democracy”. Though law and order is a state subject, they said “to protect democracy, the Centre could intervene”.

Mamata, too, denied any talks of a Cabinet berth. Asked if she had discussed with Advani the issue, she said: “I did not talk about it (induction of Trinamul into the government).” She parried a question on the issue of invitation to Bandopadhyay last month to join Vajpayee’s ministry.

The Trinamul leader had come here to attend a meeting of allies that Vajpayee had called on Saturday to discuss sending troops to Iraq. But she could not meet the Prime Minister separately as he left for his weeklong China trip the next morning.

Though any clear indication about her induction must await Vajpayee’s return — and also Advani’s change of heart — she got the assurance that an NDA fact-finding team will be despatched to Bengal to inquire into the CPM’s alleged terror tactics against Trinamul workers.

Trinamul sources Mamata submitted a memorandum along with several newspaper clippings to the deputy Prime Minister on the “sinking law and order situation in West Bengal”.

The Trinamul leader said she took up the issue of CPM hooliganism in Bengal. She told Advani that there was “no democracy” in the state where the “police is under the total control” of the ruling Left front.

“People in Jammu and Kashmir can vote freely but not in West Bengal. Atrocities are being committed on political workers belonging to the Opposition in the state,” the Trinamul leader told Advani.

“Advani gave me a patient hearing. I am satisfied with my discussions,” she later said.

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