The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata tea cup woes brim over

Calcutta, Sept. 9: The Trinamul Congress today looked set to lose another founder member with Mamata Banerjee deciding to replace Sudip Bandopadhyay as the party’s chief whip in Parliament.

The decision mirrors the unrest in Trinamul over Mamata’s decision to stay out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and brings to the fore her unhappiness with Bandopadhyay for hobnobbing with the BJP leader.

But it was not clear whether the standoff would snowball into a fundamental rupture between Mamata and a section of the party’s MPs. Such an eventuality is possible if Bandopadhyay is not alone in unfurling the banner of rebellion.

A formal decision on Bandopadhyay’s replacement will be taken tomorrow at a meeting of Trinamul’s parliamentary party. Sources said Ranjit Panja, MP from Barasat, may be made the chief whip in Parliament.

The relationship between Mamata and Bandopadhyay has been souring for some time. It hit the nadir over the past 48 hours when Bandopadhyay, defying Mamata’s diktat, chose to have “power tea sessions” with two BJP leaders, Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley.

The BJP, keen to break Mamata’s party, is believed to have dangled the bait of ministerial berths before some MPs.

Bandopadhyay is the second founder-member to take on the leader of Trinamul, already on a downhill journey following a string of electoral reverses. Another founder-member and MP Ajit Panja had rebelled one-and-a-half years ago.

Mamata, however, did not attach any importance to Bandopadhyay’s replacement, saying he had sent a letter to the party long ago expressing his desire to step down as chief whip.


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