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Malda ‘daughter’ eyes Cong turf
Mamata goes on inauguration spree

Malda, Nov. 26: Mamata Banerjee today pledged to work for the Congress bastion of Malda as its “daughter”, a district from which Trinamul had stayed away so far because of late Congress leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s “affection” for her.

The chief minister’s comments came a day after Trinamul defeated the Congress in Nadia’s Krishnagar municipality and significantly increased its civic vote share in the rival’s Murshidabad stronghold.

Barkatda (Ghani Khan Chowdhury) ke srodhha janai. Uni amake khub sneho korten. Eto din Barkatda chilo boley ami kichu kori ni (I pay my respects to Barkatda. He had a lot of affection for me. As long as Barkatda was there, I did not do anything here),” Mamata said at a government programme in the packed Brindaboni stadium in Malda.

“But I am aware of several incidents in this district. Krishnendu (Chowdhury) and Sabitri (Mitra) have told me several things. I will not go into all these things. But let me tell you, I will now work as the daughter of Malda.”

Malda has remained a Congress stronghold even after the death of Ghani Khan in 2006. Till last year, Trinamul had seldom ventured into this Congress backyard, not fielding a candidate in the bypoll necessitated by Ghani Khan’s death. Ghani Khan’s younger brother Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury had won the election. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, which Trinamul had fought in alliance with the Congress, Mamata’s party had left the two seats in the district for the Congress. Abu Hasem and his niece Mausum Noor represent the Malda North and South seats.

But Trinamul contested the July panchayat elections in Malda and won six of the 38 zilla parishad seats. In the 2008 panchayat polls, the party had failed to win a single seat.

Trinamul leaders said Mamata wanted to “bolster” the party’s presence in Malda. They said the party could contest the two Malda seats in next year’s Lok Sabha elections.

“We have already taken over eight Congress-run municipalities, riding on defections. There is no reason why Trinamul should not field more candidates in elections in the district. Didi today made it clear that she will now play a more pro-active role in the politics of this district,” a Trinamul leader said.

Mamata announced a slew of development projects for Malda (see chart on page 9).

The chief minister laid the foundation of 55 projects and inaugurated 37 schemes, the total worth of which is Rs 315 crore.

Malda North MP Mausam Noor dubbed Mamata’s comments today “political gimmick”.

“After the death of A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury in 2006, then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said the Left would take up from where Barkatda left off. But did the CPM succeed? No. The Congress stood its ground. Similar is the case with Trinamul,” she said.