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CPM smacks lips, Trinamul squirms

Calcutta, Feb. 5: The CPM today latched onto Narendra Modi’s reluctance to criticise Mamata Banerjee at the Brigade rally, saying it strengthens its assertions about the possibility of a BJP-Trinamul understanding.

“In his speech, Modi did not say a word against Mamata Banerjee to keep the door open for a post-poll alliance,” CPM state secretary Biman Bose said at a news conference in Alimuddin Street this evening.

Bose, also the Left Front chairman, said the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate avoided issues such as crimes against women.

According to CPM sources, party leaders would highlight the “possibility” of a post-poll alliance between Trinamul and the BJP at the Left’s Brigade rally on Sunday.

A CPM state secretariat member hinted that the Left could make Modi’s stand on Mamata — the BJP leader had on earlier occasions praised the Bengal chief minister — a plank for the Lok Sabha elections.

“This could not have come at a better time. The Left has always been critical of Modi and it is natural that he would attack us. But going soft on the ruling party (Trinamul) means something is cooking,” he said.

State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya echoed Bose. “Modi made no mention of the uncomfortable issues in Bengal because he is eyeing a tie-up with Trinamul”.

Trinamul sources said Mamata, who has sought to distance herself from the BJP on several occasions, was aware that if the perception of an understanding with the party gained ground, it could hurt her in the elections. At the rally she addressed at Brigade five days ago, the chief minister had criticised Modi without naming him, referring to him as “dangar mukh (the face of riots)”.

A Trinamul source said: “It would have been better had Modi attacked us. Instead, he spoke about Mamata’s development agenda and how he could support it if he became the Prime Minister.”

BJP national president Rajnath Singh supported the state government’s demand of a moratorium on the debt incurred by the Left Front government.

The Trinamul sources said such a position by national leaders of the BJP “could sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of minority voters”.

Trinamul’s all-India general secretary Mukul Roy refused comment when asked about the support extended by the BJP to the moratorium demand.

Urban development minister Firhad Hakim was the only Trinamul leader to officially speak on today’s Brigade rally. Referring to Modi’s claim that 35 per cent of Bengal’s schools did not have electricity, Hakim said: “He did not do his homework properly. Bengal has excess power and the schools have undergone a sea change in the past two-and-a-half years.”

Late in the night, a tweet on Trinamul’s Twitter handle, @AITCofficial, read: “Facts about #Bengal: Gujarat CM’s research team may have let him down.”

A Trinamul general secretary said Modi and Singh had touched upon issues close to Mamata’s heart. “But she has already made it clear that she wants to go alone,” a party general secretary said.