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BREAK FAST AT MIDNIGHT
President, PM, ex-PM appeals melt Mamata

Calcutta, Dec. 28: Mamata Banerjee called off her 25-day fast at midnight after appeals came in thick and fast from the President, Prime Minister and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s letter, taken to Mamata by an aide of the governor, said: “I believe that the chief minister has written to you today… expressing his readiness for a dialogue on all outstanding issues.

“I, therefore, appeal to you to end your fast.”

In the evening, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had sent a letter to Mamata, agreeing to examine and discuss with an “open mind” her complaint about “forcible” acquisition of land in Singur.

Announcing the end of the fast, Mamata said she was responding to the calls from the President, Prime Minister and Vajpayee. “I wanted to continue the fast but it is our country’s tradition to listen to elders. Since the nation’s topmost leaders have appealed, I am calling off the fast.”

Mamata added that all three had conceded in their letters that “farmers would get justice”. She also mentioned the chief minister’s letter as having promised to look into her complaints.

She said she as well as the government were waiting for the President’s letter to arrive.

The Trinamul Congress leader was taken away in an ambulance to a nursing home in south Calcutta.

Neither the government nor Trinamul disclosed the contents of the chief minister’s letter.

But sources in the Save Farmland Committee, spearheading the agitation in Singur, said the chief minister wrote that though Mamata’s complaint of “forcible” acquisition was not correct, he was ready to examine her list of farmers who do not want to sell their land and those who have second thoughts now and, if necessary, take steps.

The sources cited an assurance to normalise the situation in Singur, which is under Section 144. Third, he requested her again to end the fast.

There was expectation on both sides that Mamata would call off the fast after getting the letter. Bhattacharjee was even scheduled to announce at a news conference the resolution of the Singur deadlock.

But she told her party colleagues: “There is nothing new and substantial in the letter.” Trinamul sources said that after receiving Bhattacharjee’s letter, Mamata spoke to BJP chief Rajnath Singh and Vajpayee, seeking advice.

Before leaving Writers’ Buildings, a grim chief minister said: “Let’s hope for the best.”

Although one section of Trinamul favoured withdrawing the hunger strike as they believed Bhattacharjee had climbed down, party leader Partha Chatterjee, one of the negotiators, and some others were dejected that the letter did not reflect what they claimed had been agreed.

The Trinamul negotiators said the government had refused to suspend work on the portion of land Mamata claimed belonged to farmers who were unwilling to sell.

As night fell and the curtain stayed firmly down on the dais where the Trinamul leader had been fasting for 25 days, hope for an immediate end dimmed — until the President’s and the Prime Minister’s appeals came.

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