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Sweet send-off for Cong

- Mamata hiss at Centre, tea for outgoing ministers

Calcutta, Sept. 22: Mamata Banerjee today requested the six Congress ministers who resigned from her government to feel free to advise her and offered them snacks when they met her at her Writers’ chamber to put in their papers.

Hours earlier at a programme in the city, the chief minister, whose party yesterday withdrew support to the Congress-led central coalition, threatened to bare her fangs if there were lapses and promised not to bow her head before the “arrogance of power”.

Around 5.04pm, the Congress six — Manas Bhunia, Abu Naser Khan Chowdhury, Abu Hena, Sabina Yeasmin, Sunil Tirkey and P.N. Roy — walked into the chief minister’s chamber. Senior state ministers Subrata Mukherjee, Partha Chatterjee and Amit Mitra, and former central ministers Saugata Roy, Sultan Ahmed and Sudip Bandopadhyay were also present.

“She said we had done a good job. She asked us to get in touch with her in case of any need and also give advice whenever we feel the need,” Bhunia said.

Khan Chowdhury said: “I told her (Mamata) I will come whenever I feel like having a cup of tea.”

The Congress leaders spent around 25 minutes in the chief minister’s chamber and were offered tea, potato chips, fish fry and sweets.

They then went to Raj Bhavan and submitted to governor M.K. Narayanan a letter mentioning that the Congress had withdrawn support to the Trinamul-led Bengal government.

“We have tolerated enough but not any longer,” Bhunia told reporters after coming out. “It is unfortunate that Trinamul, despite being the UPA’s biggest ally, helped the communists and the BJP by withdrawing support.”

Industries minister and Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said no decision had yet been taken on who would replace the Congress ministers.

Earlier in the day, after inaugurating a water pipeline between Tallah and Palta, Mamata criticised the Centre without taking any names.

“Ramakrishna had narrated the story of a monk and a snake. The monk had asked a cobra not to bite anyone. The cobra came to him one day and said it had stopped biting but human beings were still beating it up. The monk replied that he had asked the cobra not to bite, but had not stopped it from baring its fangs. Bichyuti holey phonsh korar adhikar aachhe (if there are lapses, we can always hiss if we can’t bite). We will not bow our heads before the arrogance of power,” she said.

Asked what Mamata had wanted to convey, Saugata Roy, one of the Trinamul ministers who quit the UPA government, said: “There is a fear that the Centre will try to deprive Bengal of its dues. If that happens, we will hiss.”