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Manas looks to Delhi on alliance

- Minister seeks high command directive on whether to continue in Mamata govt

Calcutta, Sept. 12: Irrigation minister Manas Bhunia today asked the high command if Congress ministers should continue in the Mamata Banerjee government in the face of “Trinamul attacks”.

“Trinamul-sponsored attacks are going on unabated on our party workers everywhere in Bengal. Our supporters keep asking us why we are continuing as ministers in the Trinamul-led coalition. The time has come to seek a directive from Delhi on what we should do now,” Bhunia said this morning at a panchayati raj convention at Nazrul Manch in Calcutta.

Bhunia spoke at the event attended by several leaders from Delhi, such as Union minister of state for home affairs Jitendra Singh, AICC’s Bengal in-charge Shakeel Ahmed and all-India Youth Congress president Rajeev Satav. It was organised by state Youth Congress president Mausam Noor.

Bhunia later told The Telegraph his urge was prompted by “a persistent misgiving” among party ranks that Congress ministers should come out of the state government.

“We are part of the coalition in Bengal as desired by the central leadership. So, it should give us a directive on whether to continue or not. We are fed up with questions from workers,” he said.

State fisheries minister Abu Hena echoed Bhunia. “We feel embarrassed when party workers keep asking us about the reason for our continuing in a government under which they are unsafe. We are ready to quit provided the high command gives us a nod,” he said.

Other than Bhunia and Hena, there are four junior Congress ministers in Mamata’s cabinet.

According to a Congress general-secretary, Bhunia’s observations came after he and Hena were criticised by a majority of leaders for not speaking against the Trinamul Congress at the PCC’s extended executive meeting last month.

Shakeel Ahmed said he would take up the ministers’ “sentiments” with Sonia Gandhi on Friday after reaching Delhi. “I understand that the sentiments expressed by Manasji and Abu Hena Saheb are genuine because party workers are facing regular attacks from Trinamul activists. But there are some national compulsions that also have to be kept in mind. Trinamul is the second-largest partner of the UPA at the Centre,” he said.

“I shall take it up with Soniaji when I meet her on Friday to choose the party’s nominee for the Jangipur by poll,” Shakeel said.

Told about Bhunia’s comments, state panchayat minister and Trinamul vice-president Subrata Mukherjee said: “This would be a welcome move if Bhunia and other Congress ministers quit the cabinet at the earliest instead of criticising the government of which they are partners.”

State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said at the convention that a dozen Congress leaders were “brutally attacked” this morning in Nandigram over filing nominations for a school managing committee election.

“Our Nandigram leader Suraj Pradhan had to be hospitalised with head injuries. It appears Trinamul’s one-point agenda is to wipe out the Congress from Bengal. We shall hit the streets against them for continuously unleashing terror on our party activists,” he said, adding the party would organise a Nandigram cholo programme to protest the attack.