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Mamata, Anna set up date

Mamata Banerjee and Anna Hazare

Calcutta, Feb. 13: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will visit Delhi on February 18 to meet Anna Hazare, who today said he would campaign for Trinamul in the Lok Sabha polls.

Mukul Roy, the Trinamul all-India general secretary, and the party’s newly elected Rajya Sabha MP, K.D. Singh, today met the social activist at his office in Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra.

“She (Mamata) lives in a 10-by-12 room and wears slippers…. After 66 years of Independence, nobody except Mamataji has thought of changing the economic system. I back her as a candidate for Prime Minister,” a Trinamul source quoted Hazare as saying after the meeting today.

Trinamul insiders said Mamata would leave for Delhi on February 17, a few hours after state finance minister Amit Mitra presents the budget. “The modalities of the joint campaign with Annaji will be decided at the meeting the next day,” a Trinamul leader said in Calcutta.

According to the sources, Hazare’s “clean image” as a Gandhian protesting against corruption will be a “major boost” for Trinamul at a time the party is trying to make its presence felt at the national level. Mamata had said in her Janaury 30 Bridage rally that she intended to field candidates in a number of states in the general elections.

“Annaji has supported so many causes before. This is the first time he will campaign for a political party and ask people to vote on a symbol,” said Derek O’Brien, Trinamul vice-president and the party chief whip in the Rajya Sabha.

In January this year, Hazare had written to all major parties seeking their response on the pro-people agenda he wanted the political class to take up.

Left speech boycott

The Left Front has decided to boycott Mamata’s speech a few hours before the budget on Monday as according to the schedule, she will not be present in the Assembly tomorrow and won’t take questions the next Friday.

The chief minister, who returned from her north Bengal trip on Thursday, will on Monday give her customary reply to the governor’s speech on the opening day of the budget session on February 10.

“Since she won’t be here to take our questions, we don’t have to stay and listen to her speech,” said leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra.

The chief minister will inaugurate Mati Utsav in Burdwan’s Panagarh tomorrow. She won’t take questions the next Friday as a number of bills will be passed, officials said.