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Halim takes lead to call Mamata

Calcutta, July 2: Bengal Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim will send an aide to Mamata Banerjee’s house to invite her to Jyoti Basu’s 96th birth anniversary celebrations on July 8 in the Assembly.

If Mamata accepts the invitation to next Thursday’s event — a big “if” as her party representative has already decided to stay away — it will hold some symbolic interest as Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is also expected to attend.

Another set of arch-rivals may turn up: Prakash Karat and Somnath Chatterjee, whom the CPM boss expelled from the party.

One of the highlights of the programme is the first Jyoti Basu Memorial Lecture. Somnath has been picked to deliver the lecture.

Speaker Halim said he would send the aide to Mamata’s residence tomorrow to invite her. “I have decided to send my aide to the railway minister’s Kalighat home to hand over the invite for the programme. As she is in Calcutta now, it will be a great honour for all of us if she makes it,” he said.

If Mamata and Bhattacharjee share the platform, it will be the first time they will be doing so since they met at Raj Bhavan to hold talks on Singur. Then governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi had arranged the doomed encounter.

Trinamul’s Partha Chatterjee has already refused to attend the programme. Partha, leader of the Opposition, cited the ruling CPM’s alleged “state-sponsored terror” to stay away. “I have been requesting Partha to attend. I again asked him today,” Halim said.

Eyes will also be riveted on Somnath and Karat if the CPM chief turns up. “We have invited both Somnathda and the CPM general secretary,” Halim said.

While Somnath said he would feel “greatly honoured” to attend the event, Karat is yet to get the invite. “I have not yet heard about the July 8 programme in Calcutta since at present I am in Bhopal. I shall take a decision after I come to know about it,” Karat said tonight over the phone.

Halim is president of the West Bengal Forum for Parliamentary Studies, which is organising the lecture.

All MPs and central ministers from Bengal and MLAs are being invited. Other guests include Calcutta mayor Sovan Chatterjee and the chairperson of Bidhan Nagar municipality. Both are Trinamul leaders.

Halim is also trying to bring Basu’s son Chandan and his former wife Dolly to the programme.The government chief whip, Syed Mohammed Masih, expressed hope they would make it to the event. “We have invited both Chandanbabu and Dolly Basu. We hope both of them attend,” said Masih.

Chandan was not available for comment, but Dolly said she would attend if she was in Calcutta that day. Basu’s grand-daughter Doyel is among the invitees.

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