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Before Republic Day, a parade to Delhi
Issues: harmad to price rise

Calcutta, Jan. 17: Ahead of the Republic Day parade, Bengal’s political leaders and culture clan are marching to Delhi with issues as myriad as price rise, armed CPM camps and the “Trinamul-Maoist nexus”.

An eight-member team from the pro-change culture clan today met the Prime Minister and the President and requested early polls in the state.

Close on their heels, Mamata Banerjee is expected to meet Manmohan Singh on Wednesday. On the same day, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is scheduled to meet Union home minister P. Chidambaram. The Trinamul Congress termed the possible clash of dates “merely coincidental”.

Bhattacharjee’s Delhi visit will come in response to Chidambaram’s request for a discussion on the worsening law and order in Bengal. The chief minister will be armed with “evidence of a Trinamul-Maoist nexus”, CPM sources have said. Bhattacharjee is also expected to meet the Prime Minister.

Trinamul sources said Mamata would meet Singh to discuss Bengal’s law-and-order situation and the rise in the prices of essentials.

While Bhattacharjee will return to Calcutta on Wednesday evening, Mamata is expected to reach Delhi on the same evening.

“Mamata is likely to go to Delhi on January 19. She will say whatever she has to at the right place,” said Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Trinamul’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha.

Trinamul MPs will stage a dharna in front of Jantar Mantar on Wednesday against the CPM’s “atrocities” in rural Bengal. Mamata will not take part in the protest.

Asked if the possible presence of Mamata and Bhattacharjee in Delhi on the same day was a political ploy, a senior Trinamul leader said it was a coincidence.

“The chief minister has been asked to visit Delhi by the Union home minister. The Trinamul is an ally of the UPA government and Mamata Banerjee has the right to take up with the Centre contentious issues such as the price rise and Bengal’s law and order,” he said.

Trinamul sources said that initially, it had been decided that the party would focus only on the state’s law-and-order situation during the dharna and Mamata’s meeting with the Prime Minister.

“But we had to redraw our agenda after the Centre decided to increase petrol prices,” a Trinamul leader said.

He said Mamata was “hurt” at the way the Centre had kept her “in the dark” about the hike decision.

The culture clan delegation, which included theatre personalities Bratya Basu and Shaoli Mitra, painter Suvaprasanna and economist Abhirup Sarkar, requested the Prime Minister to hold early elections in Bengal, Basu said.

“The Prime Minister said the government was exploring the possibilities,” Basu said.

Political analyst Amiyo Chowdhury said the team told Manmohan Singh that “every day, eight to 10 people were being killed in political clashes in Bengal”.

The team handed Singh and President Pratibha Patil a list of “23 harmad camps around Netai”.

When Singh told the team that Bhattacharjee had invited all political leaders and people from other walks of life to discuss ways to end the violence, Basu told him: “We don’t believe Buddhadeb.”

Mitra said the team had told Singh and Patil that the situation in Bengal was “going from bad to worse”, and sought their intervention.

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