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MLA' Mamata mulls

Calcutta/Malda, Jan. 14: Mamata Banerjee is thinking of making her debut as a candidate in the Assembly elections scheduled for mid-2006.

“I may contest this time by filing nomination for one of the 294 constituencies across Bengal,” the Trinamul Congress leader said in Malda this morning.

A combination of factors is compelling Mamata to consider entering the fray, most probably from Alipore constituency.

One of the objectives is to give her 11-party Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Front a credible face to hold up against the Left Front’s mascot, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Besides, Mamata feels that only she can act as the binding force that will keep her fractious allies together even if it is to play the role of an effective Opposition in the House.

But Trinamul critics saw another motive behind the move to enter the Assembly race. Mamata’s margins in the South Calcutta parliamentary seat have been falling and the next Lok Sabha election could be an uphill task following the reorganisation of the constituency.

Reacting to the suggestion that Mamata may contest the poll, veteran CPM leader Jyoti Basu asked: “Is she once again dreaming to become chief minister' I don’t see how anyone can think of offering competition to the CPM and Buddhadeb’s government after seeing their quality and scale of performance. Let’s hope good sense will prevail.”

However, Congress’s Somen Mitra, her one-time detractor and now a supporter of the idea of an alliance with Trinamul, saw merit in Mamata’s move. “It’s going to add a new dimension to state politics. The entire Opposition will be energised by this decision.”

Four days ago, while releasing the common minimum agenda of her front, Mamata did not rule out the possibility of contesting the Assembly elections this time.

Trinamul leaders said today Mamata was thinking of contesting from the Alipore constituency, replacing the sitting party MLA and actor, Tapas Pal, who won the seat by a margin of 18,000 votes in the 2001 election.

“I am willing to sacrifice myself for Didi,” Pal said, adding that “Alipore is all for her to remake. I am going to re-organise myself and concentrate on acting.”

One reason for preferring Alipore is that the Trinamul leader’s mother Gayatri Banerjee is a voter from the area, without whose blessings, Mamata often says, she would not have come this far.

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