The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata sees certificate, party pact

Calcutta, Jan. 13: Mamata Banerjee regards Manmohan Singh's invitation to return to the Congress and join his cabinet as acknowledgement of the Trinamul Congress' eminence in Bengal politics.

Her party still part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, Mamata today said: 'We are happy that the Prime Minister gave us a patient hearing during the courtesy call yesterday. We detailed our grievances against the ruling Marxists at the meeting. We also made it clear that the question of accepting his offer did not arise as long as the Congress depended on the CPM for the Centre's survival.'

The Trinamul leader, though touched by the Prime Minister's invitation during the talks at Raj Bhavan, did not take kindly to his description of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as the 'most dynamic chief minister in the country'. She has been targeting the chief minister at public rallies and refusing to share dais with him at official programmes.

However, senior Trinamul leaders said Mamata will not mind an informal seat-sharing deal with the Congress for the June elections to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and some other civic bodies.

The party's pact with the BJP would not come in the way of such an understanding, a Trinamul leader said.

'There is no reason why our party cannot join hands with other anti-CPM forces to prevent a split in votes during the city polls. The Congress has not withdrawn its support to the city civic board, which is being run by the Trinamul-BJP combine,' said Sadhan Pande, the Trinamul legislator from Bartala in the city and a close Mamata associate.

The Trinamul and Congress leaderships are under increasing pressure from grassroots workers to bury the hatchet, at least informally, since the Lok Sabha polls. Trinamul fared poorly in the May elections, which it fought with the BJP, and bagged one seat ' that of Mamata.

Her association with the BJP has prevented Trinamul and the Congress from launching a joint movement against the CPM, but not their joining hands to form municipal boards in the districts.

Englishbazar municipality in Malda is now being run jointly by Trinamul, the BJP and the Congress. The civic board has nine Trinamul councillors and four each from the BJP and the Congress. Similarly, the Congress-led Malda zilla parishad is dependent on the NDA partners for survival.

A proposal to revive this 'grand alliance of anti-CPM forces in Bengal' may come up for discussion at the Trinamul state conference at Contai in West Midnapore later this month. The three-day conference, beginning January 21, will review 'the present political scenario' and finalise strategy.

Aware of the need to forge unity among 'secular' anti-CPM outfits, Mamata has been distancing herself from the BJP's Hindutva, which got a boost with L.K. Advani taking over as the saffron party chief.

She has maintained a studied silence on the Kanchi seer's arrest and refused to send her representative to an NDA delegation that met the beleaguered pontiff in jail.

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