Calcutta, Nov. 20: When news of the Supreme Court's cancellation of the land allotment to Justice Bhagabati Prosad Banerjee from Jyoti Basu's quota reached the Kalighat residence of Mamata Banerjee yesterday, she surprisingly kept mum.
Though always straining at the bit for a swipe at Basu, Mamata realised her party had been caught on the wrong foot.
The petition was moved by Tarak Singh, a Trinamul Congress leader, and could have been the cause for much rejoicing in the camp. But equations between the judge and the party had changed since Singh had filed the plea.
'The apex court's ruling has left us red-faced as Justice Banerjee is our man these days. He has been regularly contributing to our weekly mouthpiece, Jago Bangla,' said a key Trinamul functionary.
He recounted that Mamata had shared a platform with Justice Banerjee at a function on October 13 to officially launch the mouthpiece.
But within 24 hours, Mamata was back to form, almost. Trinamul announced today plans to rock the Assembly when the winter session begins next month. Before that, the party will hold a string of street corner meetings and rallies trying to mould public opinion on the allotment case.
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee had persuaded her that something had to be done to maintain Trinamul's image as the principal Opposition party. 'If we keep silent on such a burning issue, the party will lose its relevance as the Opposition,' sources quoted Mukherjee as telling Mamata.
The party chief got on the phone with Leader of the Opposition Pankaj Banerjee, who is camping in Midnapore to attend a party programme, and asked party functionaries like Singh, Arunava Ghosh and Dipak Kumar Ghosh to meet reporters as 'a face-saving device'.
The trio today unveiled the agitation plans at a hurriedly-convened press conference at Trinamul Bhavan. But Mamata and the mayor, though present in the city, stayed away.
'Now we want an explanation from chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on what would be his government's next move in the wake of the apex court's order disapproving of the policy of land distribution in Salt Lake,' said Arunava Ghosh, lawyer and Trinamul MLA from Dum Dum.
Ghosh argued that since the committee set up to oversee the distribution of plots had among its members the likes of Bhattacharjee, Asim Dasgupta and Prasanta Sur, the chief minister was accountable to the people. There was, however, no response when asked how much the party would stand to gain in a six-day Assembly session starting early December.
The Trinamul leaders have lined up a rally next month to seek people's blessings for 'our sustained movement'.
'We have to step up the movement targeting former chief minister Jyoti Basu, who is the real culprit behind distribution of Salt Lake plots in the late eighties. Justice Banerjee has been made a scapegoat,' said a Trinamul functionary.
He was also keen to expose the state Congress leaders who had got Salt Lake plots under Basu's quota.