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Mamata balancing act, in rehearsed Urdu

Aligarh, Sept. 8: Mamata Banerjee today pulled off a deft balancing act, speaking of the NDA in the past tense but not saying unambiguously if she had bid goodbye to it or was ready to re-align herself with the Congress.

“Even when I was in the NDA, I had nothing to do with the BJP,” she said on her first visit to Aligarh Muslim University, overlooking that she had fought polls with that party and was part of a government headed by it.

Mamata, however, kept mum on whether her “split” was state- or region-specific as she spoke at the Kennedy auditorium in Bengali-accented Hindi and rehearsed Urdu, with the odd shayaree thrown in.

The Trinamul Congress chief had first sprung the break-up line on Thursday but had clarified that she was no longer with the NDA only in Bengal.

Her speech today was not wanting in declarations about her “secular” intent, though. That it was all part of the script penned by her and her AMU hosts became clear in the light of the words of an opening speaker.

“I congratulate Miss Mamata Banerjee. Today, she has snapped her ties with the NDA, she is no longer a partner of the NDA,” proclaimed professor Saleem Akhtar of the law department.

“Those community members (Muslims) who had objected to her presence (at the AMU) had better know that from now on, she has nothing to do with the NDA.”

University sources said had this not been set out in the beginning, reactions might have been “volatile”. The CPM-aligned Students Federation of India, which has a strong presence on the campus, had been ready to wave black flags at Mamata.

Her speech, believed to be extempore, was about explanations and apologies. Since she was defensive about the BJP, she was prevaricative, even a tad soft, on the Congress and vituperative against the Left.

This was despite the perception — reinforced by other speakers — that the Congress governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra did not raise a finger to get the Srikrishna Commission report implemented and ensure justice for minorities victimised in the post-Babri riots in Mumbai.

Before leaving the campus, Mamata told The Telegraph she did not wish to “exceed the limits of decorum and propriety” while speaking on the Srikrishna report because that would mean putting the Congress in the dock.

Earlier, she had attacked the Congress for “shirking” its share of the responsibility for the Babri demolition and reminded the gathering that she had quit her ministership in protest.

Asked what she thought of the Congress as a national alternative, she said: “The CPM’s red germs have infested the party. Let them be disinfected first.

“The Congress should stop surrendering to the CPM. The CPM is getting all the credit at the Congress’s expense despite using money, muscle power and mafia. This way, the country’s image will be ruined.”

On the BJP, her take was: “Their principles and views are different from mine. This is why even when I was part of the NDA, I demanded Narendra Modi’s resignation (after the Gujarat violence) and refused to vote for the Pota (anti-terror) bill.”

Mamata’s objective seemed limited: the AMU, which was used as a launch pad by Sonia Gandhi to resurrect the Congress’s minority agenda in December 2003, could shore up her credibility with the Muslims of Bengal after her long dalliance with the BJP-NDA.

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