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Mayor set to pip MP

Calcutta, Feb. 13: Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today stopped just short of announcing mayor Subrata Mukherjee as the party’s nominee for the Calcutta northwest parliamentary seat.

Mamata heaped praise on the mayor for the scheme to supply water from the nearby Hooghly to Jorabagan Park — reeling under a severe water crisis — at a foundation-stone laying ceremony for a water supply scheme for the north Calcutta locality.

Earlier, on her way back from Dankuni, Mamata had dropped in for tea at the BJP office with state party president Tathagata Roy and other leaders of the organisation.

The Union coal and mines minister, however, gave a cold shoulder to local MP Sudip Bandopadhayay. It appears that the Trinamul chief is all set to discard Bandopadhayay, who was not invited, and field Mukherjee for the Calcutta northwest seat.

“I thank the mayor and his team for thinking on their feet and coming up with such an easy solution to slake the thirst of thousands of people in Jorabagan and its neighbourhood,” Mamata said. “It never crossed the mind of the previous board (led by the CPM) that the Hooghly was so nearby and all that was necessary was a pipeline, a filtering plant and a boosting station.”

Mamata used the platform as the launching pad for the Trinamul’s campaign and highly praised Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “We are grateful to Vajpayeeji for doubling the amount of the MPs’ local area development fund. He raised it from Rs 1 crore to Rs 2 crore because he realised it was not possible for an MP to carry out development work with such a meagre fund.”

In an oblique dig at Bandopadhayay, Mamata recalled his repeated claims of having done a lot for his constituency. “One should not mix politics with development work,” she said.

Though elections are yet to be officially announced, the mood at the meeting was that of a campaign rally. Speculation was rife among Trinamul workers that Bandopadhayay would finally have to enter the fray as an Independent.

A huge cloth festoon hung from a bamboo structure said: “Do not vote for the CPM, the Congress or an Independent. Vote only for the Trinamul Congress candidate,” lending credence to the speculation that Bandopadhayay is being denied a party ticket.

Bandopadhayay, when contacted, however, declined to comment on whether he would seek re-election as an Independent. “I have virtually spent the entire past five years working towards development of my constituency. I will continue to do so till the last drop of my blood,” he said.

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