The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani has only sage advice for Mamata

Calcutta, July 6: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today had words of advice for Mamata Banerjee and the Opposition parties in the state — author a “people’s movement” instead of cajoling the Centre to intervene in Bengal politics.

Almost chiding the main Opposition party, the Trinamul Congress, Advani said much had to be learnt from the BJP’s success in creating its own space in national politics on the strength of popular trust.

“The Centre can do very little in accordance with the Constitution. You should build up a movement involving people, who can help you dethrone the CPM like we (the BJP) ousted the Congress from Delhi,” he said.

The deputy Prime Minister said he broadly agreed with the contention that “democracy is missing here” but held the Opposition responsible for it in a way. “You will have to create the level playing field yourself and throw a challenge to them,” Advani said at the newly-built Trinamul Bhavan at Topsia in the city.

On the last leg of his one-day trip to the state, Advani reached the Trinamul headquarters 35 minutes behind schedule. Besides Mamata and city mayor Subrata Mukherjee, most Trinamul MPs, MLAs and councillors were in attendance at the programme. State BJP president Tathagata Roy and some of his associates turned up as well. But there was no Tapan Sikdar.

The former state BJP chief and now Union minister of state for small-scale industries, Sikdar, a Mamata bete noire, was conspicuous by his absence.

Advani expressed concern over allegations levelled by Mamata and her party leaders, including Mukherjee and leader of Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee, about growing lawlessness in the state. They had implored him to get the Centre to impose President’s rule.

The Trinamul chief today said she had brought to Advani’s notice the party’s staying away from the Assembly to protest the CPM’s misrule.

The man in charge of the Union home ministry said he had received a report from an NDA team on the “slaughtered democracy” in Bengal but could not do much till a people’s movement gathered steam. “I am not going to compromise with those who throttle democracy but at the same time, you, the Opposition, should not keep idle,” he said.

A stronger relationship between Trinamul and the BJP’s Bengal unit could pose a challenge to the CPM, Advani said.

In a fine balancing act, Advani gave audience to the various factions in the BJP, ally Trinamul, the rebel in Mamata’s flock, Sudip Bandopadhyay, and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, with whom he enjoys a good rapport.

Accompanied by Sudip, the Trinamul MP from Calcutta Northwest, Advani had a cruise on the Hooghly. He also visited the ancestral house of Swami Vivekananda in north Calcutta, which is being renovated by Ramakrishna Mission with assistance from the MP’s local area development fund.

He attended a function organised on the occasion of the 103rd birth anniversary of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee by the BJP faction close to Sikdar. And he met Sikdar’s rival in the party, Roy.

Advani met Bhattacharjee for more than an hour over lunch at Raj Bhavan and took the customary dig at communists when he said at Netaji Indoor Stadium: “I would have been happy if the Marxists joined the meeting today to remember Shyama Prasadji. I had volunteered to attend the funeral of E.M.S. Namboodiripad — my first official function as Union home minister.”

Mamata accompanied Advani to the airport on his way back. She said a memorandum with a list of the CPM’s excesses had been submitted to the deputy Prime Minister.

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