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Mamata hope on new govt

Calcutta, Feb. 17: Mamata Banerjee today expressed hope that a change of guard in Delhi would help Bengal emerge from its debt trap and realise her dream of Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal).

The comments come less than a fortnight after BJP chief Rajnath Singh backed her demands for financial relief while addressing the Brigade rally alongside party mascot Narendra Modi.

Notun government aasuk, restructuring hokjodi katha bole restructuring kore daye, taka jodi na kete niye jaye, dekhiye debo. (Let the new government come, let restructuring be done…if they agree to restructuring after talks, if money is not deducted, I will show them) Bengal will be gold. I am confident,” the chief minister said in the Assembly.

The statement came on a day Trinamul MPs protested during Union finance minister P. Chidambaram’s interim budget speech for not granting the state’s long-standing demand for repayment relief on central loans.

Mamata has never spoken of any adjustment with the BJP before or after the polls. Instead she has pitched Trinamul as the alternative to both the BJP and the Congress at the Centre.

However, today’s speech indicated that she might look at the possibility of doing business with any party that agrees to her demands. So far only the BJP leaders have spoken about doing so.

Rajnath had spoken of backing Bengal’s financial demands during his speech at the February 5 Brigade rally. Modi had said that Bengal would have “laddoos in both hands” if he became Prime Minister, pointing out that the state had already seen change with Mamata.

The comments were seen as a move to woo Trinamul. Mamata has often accused the Congress-led UPA-II of refusing to accept her government’s demands for restructuring the debt piled during the Left’s 34-year rule.

Today, as Trinamul MPs protested in Parliament — two members displayed banners with the message “Bengal Hungry” — Mamata dismissed the Union interim budget as “an election gimmick”. “A vote-on-account is only for meeting expenses and it cannot be implemented. Some people can be fooled but everybody cannot be fooled,” she said.

In an attempt to pitch Trinamul as a key player at the Centre after the Lok Sabha polls, Mamata has started telling voters to punish the CPM for leaving the state in the debt trap and the Congress for refusing to bail out her government.

In party meetings, Mamata has been talking about going it alone and bagging most of Bengal’s 42 seats. Trinamul leaders close to her said that a high tally could give Mamata a big say in government formation efforts.

“She has never denied the possibility of a post-poll arrangement when the time comes to form the government at the Centre. At this moment, she knows it would go against her interests to ally with any of the two major blocks (UPA and the BJP-led NDA),” said a Trinamul leader.

In her speech in the Assembly today, she referred to her demands no less than four times. “What the UPA-II has done cannot be forgiven… Those who are taking everything away from us, people will snatch everything from them one day.”

While she referred to the BJP only once in her speech, Mamata slammed the Left and the Congress repeatedly. “The CPM and the Congress have so much love for each other… Valentine’s day passed recently.”