The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sudip tea taste for Jaitley too

Calcutta, Sept 8: Unfazed by criticism in party circles for hosting a tea party for Union communications minister Pramod Mahajan, Trinamul Congress chief whip in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay today held a “power” tea session for BJP spokesman Arun Jaitley.

Before winding up his two-day trip to the city, Jaitley managed time from his packed schedule to drop in at Bandopadhyay’s S.N. Banerjee Road residence this afternoon.

“This is a courtesy call and there is nothing political about it. I just came to comply with a request from Bandopadhyay,” was all that a smiling Jaitley said before rushing to the airport.

Bandopadhyay, however, claimed that during the tête-à-têtes, the two key BJP central leaders reposed faith in Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee’s leadership. “I know that even some of my party colleagues are raising questions about the BJP leaders’ visit to my residence. There is nothing wrong in interacting with the BJP leaders when we are still in the NDA,” he said. Bandopadhyay added that he would explain his position to Mamata if asked to.

However, till late this evening, he could not get in touch with the Trinamul chief.

Party insiders said Bandopadhyay’s overtures to the two senior BJP leaders antagonised Mamata and did not go down well with key functionaries. Mamata has asked party general secretary Mukul Roy to write to Bandopadhyay seeking an explanation on the “controversial issue”, they said.

A section of Trinamul leaders also called upon Mamata to convene the party’s working committee meeting immediately to discuss the issue.

“When Mamata is opposed to entertaining BJP leaders due to her present standoff with the Centre on Eastern Railway’s proposed bifurcation, Sudip should have avoided inviting BJP leaders to his residence. This goes against the party line,” said a senior Trinamul leader. Bandopadhyay, a close Mamata aide at a time, has flouted the party line “deliberately” to prove his proximity with key BJP leaders and to put pressure on the Trinamul leadership, he added.

The Trinamul youth wing sounded more critical about Bandopadhyay’s gesture. “At a time when didi has asked us to distance ourselves from the BJP till the bifurcation issue is sorted out, Sudipda’s hobnobbing with the BJP leaders will definitely send a wrong signal to the party’s rank and file,” said a youth leader from south Calcutta.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and Trinamul spokesman Pankaj Banerjee said the leadership is keeping watch on the development. “If this is purely a courtesy call, we have nothing to say,” he added.

Rebel Trinamul MP Ajit Panja today softened his attitude towards Mamata and said she is a vital force in Bengal to fight the Left Front. Panja fell out with Mamata before the Assembly elections and even launched a parallel outfit.

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