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Delhi desire in Mamata manifesto

(From left) Amit Mitra, Derek O’Brien, Mamata Banerjee, Indranil Sen and Partha Chatterjee at the release of the Trinamul manifesto at the chief minister’s residence, 30B Harish Chatterjee Street, on Saturday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Calcutta, March 22: Defence policy? Check.

Foreign policy? Check.

Secular vow? Check.

Promised national economic growth rate? Missing.

Also missing when the Trinamul Congress today unfurled its checklist of national policies — or the Lok Sabha election manifesto — was Mukul Roy, Mamata Banerjee’s trusted lieutenant for years.

Mamata today unveiled two booklets — one with details of her pitch for a larger role in national politics after the general election and another, containing a list of her achievements in Bengal, to justify why her Mission Delhi should get support from voters.

Two notable inclusions in the booklets were Trinamul’s foreign and defence policies, about which the party did not have any stated stand till now.

But more than the two new topics, the absence of Roy stood out as almost all other senior leaders, including Trinamul’s national spokesperson and state finance and industries minister Amit Mitra, party secretary-general Partha Chatterjee, state minister Subrata Mukherjee and MPs Subrata Bakshi and Derek O’Brien, were present.

Mukul Roy, who was not present when the manifesto was released. Roy said he was touring Bankura and Purulia to hold workers’ conferences

“I am touring Bankura and Purulia to hold workers’ conferences,” Roy told The Telegraph this evening in response to a question.

Also absent were charts and statistics that had set Trinamul’s vision document ahead of the 2011 Assembly elections apart from usual pre-poll promises.

The new booklets — one in English and the other in Bengali — are packed with text, most of which Mamata has been repeating in her public meetings or workers’ conventions.

Sources in the party said the process of preparing the manifesto suffered a jolt as it had been planned earlier that it would be drawn up after consulting anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare. But the plan fell through after Hazare’s no-show at the Ramlila Grounds in Delhi on March 12.

Mamata, however, cut a brave face today and repeated her national agenda several times during the news conference.

“After the elections, Trinamul will emerge as the third largest party in the country…. The next government in Delhi will be a Trinamul-led one,” said the Bengal chief minister.

While the English version of the booklet has only 12 pages to explain Trinamul’s “mission and vision”, the one in Bengali runs into 64 pages and lists her government’s achievements in the past two-and-a-half years.

“The policies that we can implement if a Trinamul-led government comes to power have been given…. We have made a realistic manifesto and not empty promises. Ours is one of the best manifestos in the country,” Mamata said.

In the past few months — since her supporters started pitching her for the post of the Prime Minister — some Opposition leaders had wondered whether the head of a party that doesn’t have any policy on defence and foreign affairs can lead a government in Delhi.

“Earlier, we used to accept the Centre’s policy on external affairs and defence…. But, this time, we have seen so many scams in the defence sector. We have prepared guidelines for defence and external affairs,” said Mamata.

Sources said the mention of defence and external affairs in the party document was an attempt to silence her critics in the Opposition parties. The CPM manifesto — released two days ago — mentioned “an independent and non-aligned foreign policy and strengthening international forums like Brics and Ibsa”.

Trinamul’s manifesto said the party’s foreign policy would be guided by the “self-interest of our nation”. The assertion — every country is expected to safeguard its interest — assumes significance against the backdrop of Mamata’s opposition to sharing the Teesta waters with Bangladesh.

The foreign policy flagged five points, including “peaceful co-existence with all”, and expressed the wish that the world be looked upon as “one single family”.

The Trinamul defence policy vowed to uphold national security and promote a corruption-free and transparent procurement policy.

Mamata’s other promises are based on the model of development for Bengal that she has been talking about recently to counter the Gujarat model the BJP has been citing to popularise Narendra Modi across India.

The fact that the BJP is one of her main enemies this time is clear from the English manifesto, where it is mentioned: “We believe in a secular India.”

The first page of the national manifesto talks of the need to empower minorities and says the Bengal government has brought 94 per cent of the Muslim population under the OBC umbrella.

“Those who work know how to set examples. We have delivered that is why we are making promises,” Mamata said.

Without naming Arvind Kejriwal, whose AAP is organising fund-raising events, she criticised the attempts. The BJP’s effort to sell tickets at Modi’s public meetings also came under attack.

“Political parties are raising money by issuing slips, drinking tea, selling chairs at their meetings. Fund-raising lunch and dinners are being held. I have never heard of such things in my life,” said Mamata.

In line with her hands-off land policy, Mamata said that she would not allow forcible acquisition.

The Trinamul manifesto promises health benefits and stipends for artists and performers.