The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata doesn’t like it but bandh in Feb.

Calcutta, Jan. 2: That another bandh is happening was known. When, was the question. “February 3,” Mamata Banerjee said today.

Mayor of Calcutta Subrata Mukherjee apparently convinced his leader, the Trinamul Congress chief, of the need for a bandh to protest against the government. Trinamul sources said Mukherjee goaded Mamata into calling the bandh as he said it would help her revive the beleaguered party organisation.

Mukherjee’s detractors in the party said backing the bandh was a “calculated” step by the mayor, who “wants to get closer” to Mamata.

Sources also suggested that he is eyeing a ticket for the Lok Sabha elections from the Calcutta North-West seat, replacing Sudip Bandopadhyay, who has not been on the best of terms with the Trinamul chief.

Mamata stopped interacting with Bandopadhyay after he telephoned Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to lobby for a berth in the Union cabinet.

At a news conference today at her Kalighat residence, Mamata reiterated that the bandh was the “last resort left with the Opposition to protest against the CPM’s misrule”.

“I don’t like bandhs as they inconvenience people. But I have called the bandh this time to put pressure on the government, which has imposed taxes on motor vehicles, bicycles and even livestock on one hand and allowed opening of nearly 3,000 liquor off-shops across the state on the other. Should I sit idle as an Opposition party when the government here is adopting anti-people measures one after the other'” she asked.

Displaying a copy of a panchayat and rural development department order to all district magistrates, Mamata said: “The government has become so bankrupt it is levying tax on means of rural transport like bicycles and carts and domestic animals like cows, buffaloes, dogs and asses.”

Reacting to Mamata’s allegation, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas said the government has not taken any “final decision” yet on imposing tax on rural transport or domestic animals. “The paper shown by Mamata Banerjee is not a government order but an old circular that was issued years ago on the basis of the Panchayat Act,” he said.

Though it supported the issues raised by Trinamul, the Congress said it is not in favour of the bandh. “We have decided to launch a statewide movement in protest against the imposition of taxes, instead of calling a bandh. Our party workers will demonstrate before the district magistrates’ offices on January 7,” said state party vice-president Pradip Bhattacharya.

Political circles saw an effort to gear up the Trinamul organisation and keep the flock together in Mamata’s bandh call. She also unveiled a string of programmes, beginning Monday, that is part of a month-long agitation.

Asked why her party organises rallies on weekdays despite a Calcutta High Court directive barring it, the Trinamul leader sounded angry. “Do you know of an alternative way to register our protest'’’ she asked.

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