The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata stays put for George

Calcutta, Nov. 14: Mamata Banerjee today cancelled a trip to Siliguri to meet Trinamul Congress municipal councillors following a request from defence minister George Fernandes.

The Trinamul chief was told last night that Fernandes would like to speak to her about moves to set up a platform of regional parties within the NDA, the BJP-led central coalition.

Caught up in traffic snarls on VIP Road and the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, the minister had less than 15 minutes in hand when he reached the Trinamul office in Topsia around 9.30 am.

A Trinamul leader said Fernandes blamed the traffic for his inability to hold the “meeting” and requested Mamata to stay in the city tomorrow.

The minister, on his way to Kohima, had wanted to utilise a stopover for the appointment with Mamata. “Don’t you have traffic policemen in Calcutta' It took us 45 minutes to reach your office from the airport,” he told her.

Mamata, who was supposed to inaugurate the meeting of the municipal councillors, asked mayor Subrata Mukherjee to inaugurate it instead.

Speculation was rife in Trinamul circles that the sudden meeting between the defence minister and a minister without portfolio in the Union cabinet, Mamata, was linked with the possibility that she will take charge of a department after the Prime Minister’s return from Moscow.

Mamata’s comments fanned the speculation. “When two political leaders meet to have a cup of tea, they have milk and sugar, too,” she said.

“We think George had an offer to make regarding her department and gave her time to think it over. He will be here again tomorrow,” said a Trinamul leader close to Mamata.

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