The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayor in minority after mini exodus

Calcutta, Feb. 22: The Trinamul Congress-BJP board in the city civic body was reduced to a minority with barely four months to go for polls.

Five Trinamul councillors of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation formally returned to the Congress at a public rally this afternoon.

Former mayor-in-council member Pradip Ghosh, recently expelled from Trinamul for 'anti-party activities', borough committee chairpersons Pratima Mondal and Iqbal Ahmed and councillors Rajkishore Gupta and Radheshyam Saha switched parties.

In the 141-member civic body, Trinamul now has 63 members. With the support of four BJP councillors, the strength of the ruling combination stands at 67. The Trinamul-BJP combine is three short of the magic mark as two seats are vacant since the death of the councillors ' one from the Left Front and another Trinamul. The Congress has 11 councillors after today's development and the front 61.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, however, is certain his board is not under threat. Two of the five councillors who left his party did not vote for him during the mayoral election, he said. 'If the Congress joins hands with the CPM to bring a no-trust motion against us, it will stand exposed. We have nothing to worry about.'

However, Trinamul sources said party chief Mamata Banerjee met some of her close associates and told them to keep a 'watch' on those who have been hobnobbing with the Congress. 'We have to take note of today's exodus and ensure that such things do not recur,' she is learnt to have said.

Mamata was not available for comment till late night.

The Congress and the CPM sounded keen on exploiting the 'exodus' but were apparently unwilling to move the no-confidence motion.

'We feel the mayor should step down immediately as his party has lost the majority. We are not going to bring a no-confidence motion against the present board as its term will be over in June and a new board will be formed,' said Nirmal Mukherjee, a CPM councillor and leader of the opposition in the civic board.

State Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya also ruled out the no-confidence possibility. He said: 'We want Trinamul to seek our support for the next four months.'

Observers said the development will strengthen the faction dominated by Bhattacharya and Somen Mitra.

Their known rival in the party, Union water resources development minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Behrampore MP Adhir Chowdhury, were missing at the rally.

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