The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sudip skips Mamata show

Feb. 1: The rift between Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Sudip Bandopadhyay widened further today with the MP from Calcutta Northwest giving the miss to a programme to mark the completion of a Rs 1.25-crore project to strengthen embankments along the Hooghly.

Bandopadhyay, who took the initiative to get the work done a year ago, was conspicuous in his absence at Dakshineswar. Union shipping minister Shatrughan Sinha shared the dais with Mamata, now the central minister for coal and mines. Mayor of Calcutta Subrata Mukherjee was among those present.

“I was very much associated with the embankment project and brought in then shipping minister Ved Prakash Goel to look into the problem. Today, I was nowhere in the scene,” a restrained but apparently humiliated Bandopadhyay said tonight. “I was invited by Calcutta Port Trust but skipped the programme because of pre-occupations,” he added.

Sources said today’s absence of the man who has been with Trinamul since inception signals a possible denial of renomination from Calcutta Northwest. “Sudipda will be denied ticket for the Lok Sabha because of his hobnobbing with BJP central leaders bypassing Mamata,” said a key Trinamul functionary.

He also referred to Bandopadhyay’s lobbying with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani for a berth in the Union cabinet last year without taking his party chief into confidence.

Sinha made use of today’s platform to kick off the NDA’s campaign for the general elections in the state. Funds would not be a problem for development projects in Bengal, said Sinha. He also lavished praise on Mamata — “the only person who can bring about a change in the state” and “a role model for politicians across the country”.

Earlier, Mamata laid the foundation stone of a multi-speciality hospital off the EM Bypass. Coal India Limited will make an initial investment of about Rs 100 crore in the project, the coal and mines minister said.

The hospital, which will have super speciality departments like neurology, cardiology, trauma care and nephrology, will have 100 beds in its first phase.

Although a joint venture with Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Coal India will make the major investment. Coal India sources said the 10.5 acres earmarked by the corporation for the project would be the civic body’s capital.

Once in place, the corporation and Coal India employees would enjoy similar facilities. Mamata had earlier said the hospital will have 50 free beds reserved for the poor.

But some Coal India officials said on condition of anonymity that they were “confused about the real benefits of the hospital” for them.

About 60 families are being displaced because of the project. Mamata had announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 for 50 displaced families but the land owners, most of them farmers, said the amount was “peanuts” compared to their annual income from the land.

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