The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pranab in panchayat ekla chalo

Oct. 3: State Congress president Pranab Mukherjee today said the party will go it alone in the panchayat elections slated for early next year as Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee cannot be “depended upon”.

Speaking to reporters at the Kotwali residence of Congress leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury, who was by his side, Mukherjee said the Congress will find it difficult to “renew faith” in Mamata after the way she ditched the party following the Assembly poll debacle.

“Though they are saying they have left the BJP-led coalition, on paper they remain NDA partner. If Mamata leaves the coalition with no strings attached, we can think of a pact for the panchayat poll. But that is an unlikely prospect given Mamata’s whimsical ways,” he said.

Mukherjee pointed out that the Trinamul chief had vowed to quit the coalition if the government did not rescind the decision to bifurcate the Calcutta-headquartered Eastern Railway and carve out a separate East-Central Railway based in Bihar’s Hajipur.

The Congress is trying to get back lost ground in Bengal, said Mukherjee. “We are on a comeback trail. The party is trying to rebuild the trust the people had in it and make it acceptable among the masses. At present, it cannot be said how successful we will be in achieving our objective,” he added.

Asked about aligning with Trinamul, the state Congress president said: “It is not clear what role Trinamul will play during the winter session of Parliament. Mamata’s party is protesting against the NDA, but has voted for the coalition on several occasions.”

Mukherjee said the Congress could reconsider its decision to fight the panchayat polls on its own if Mamata snapped all ties with the Central coalition. “Only then can we begin discussions. She can’t travel on two boats at the same time.”

“If Mamata decides to quit the NDA and align with the Congress, she has to do so unconditionally. We will not accept any of her conditions,” he asserted.

At a rally later in the day at Balurghat, Mukherjee reiterated his stand on Mamata. “She says one thing and then goes ahead and does the opposite. Let her first decide on whose side she wants to be,” he said at the rally called to commemorate 60 years of the Quit India movement.

The state Congress chief made it clear Trinamul had lost its bargaining power. “The Congress is gaining in strength in West Bengal. The workers who had left us have realised their mistake and are coming back to the Congress,” he said.

Mukherjee said he will campaign alongside Ghani Khan in the panchayat elections. The Malda leader gave his seal of approval as well. “Pranabbabu is doing a good job,” he said.

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