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Trinamul divide over bandh date

Calcutta, Jan. 4: Caught on the wrong foot after choosing a wrong date, the Trinamul Congress appears to be planning to defer the dawn-to-dusk bandh on February 3.

Minority community leaders in Trinamul have apparently pointed out to their leader that the party’s Muslim support base will shrink further if a bandh is observed during Id-uz-Zoha.

“We have requested Didi (Mamata) to postpone the bandh as it coincides with the three-day Id-uz-Zoha festival beginning February 2. Didi has promised that she will soon announce a fresh date for the bandh,” said Trinamul leader Javed Khan.

However, party spokesman Pankaj Banerjee, the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, asserted that Trinamul is going ahead with the bandh at this point. “I’ve had a talk with Mamata in this regard. We are sticking to the February 3 bandh call,” he said. Banerjee declined comment on the argument against the bandh put forward by leaders like Khan and Mamtaz Alam.

The Trinamul chief was not available for comment but two senior party functionaries, mayor of Calcutta Subrata Mukherjee and MLA from Dhakuria Sougata Roy, are believed to have urged her to consider a postponement. President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is scheduled to be in the city on February 3 and 4.

“We shall decide on a new date for the bandh after further discussions,” Mukherjee said tonight. Roy said the party should get support from “all sections of people” to fight a people’s cause. “The bandh is part of our month-long agitation against the government’s decision to impose enhanced taxes on domestic animals and rural transport and to open liquor off-shops across the state. We want the people with us,” he added.

Idris Ali, the chairman of the All-India Minority Forum who deserted Mamata after she stopped short of condemning Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi after the riots in 2002, today sent feelers urging her to defer the bandh.

A request to put it off also came from state BJP chief Tathagata Roy. “We have extended our support to the bandh as the issues are genuine but at the same time, I have written to Mamata urging her to defer it in view of the President’s visit,” he said.

Observers spotted “political immaturity” in the sudden Trinamul turnaround on the bandh. “Mamata is in the habit of taking sudden decisions on important issues and then roll it back under pressure,” said a senior Congress leader.

Some of her Trinamul colleagues complained that Mamata announced the bandh without consulting it within the party. “We should have taken into account the views of the Muslim members in the party before announcing the date,” said a Trinamul leader.

The CPM’s trade union arm, Citu, was today said to be “undecided” on the industrial strike by 19 trade unions on February 11 as the Congress’ and the BJP’s trade union wings, the Intuc and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, are unwilling to collaborate.

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