The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nowhere Mamata refloats mahajot

Calcutta, Oct. 14: Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has finally convened a working committee meeting on October 27 to formally announce her decision to dissociate from the NDA.

The former railway minister is expected to write to Lok Sabha Speaker Monohar Joshi asking for separate seats for Trinamul MPs. “I am left with no option but to sever ties with the NDA once and for all. The Centre has done nothing to stall the bifurcation of Eastern Railway,” Mamata was learnt to have told partymen.

Trinamul sources said she has spoken to new party chief whip Ranjit Panja on the issue. He was asked to draft the letter to the Speaker.

Trinamul MP Sudip Bandopadhyay said Mamata might once again revive the concept of a mahajot (grand alliance) of non-Left forces that she had floated in the run-up to last year’s Assembly elections.

“Keeping an eye on the coming panchayat polls, Mamata is keen on averting a split in the anti-CPM votes,” Bandopadhyay said. “A united Opposition is the need of the hour to fight the CPM in Bengal,” he added.

Trinamul sources said this time, Mamata is very “cautious” vis-à-vis her relations with the Congress. “We have had bitter experiences with the Congress, which practically stabbed us in the back during last year’s Assembly polls,” said Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, the Trinamul chief whip in the Assembly.

Chattopadhyay felt a tie-up with the Congress would send a wrong message to the people. “If we come out of the NDA, we will have to chalk out the political strategy in a way that will help us regain people’s trust,” he said.

Convinced that Mamata will formally come out of the BJP-led coalition, state Congress leaders are hopeful of forging an alliance with her for the panchayat elections. “We are ready to join forces with Mamata as soon as she leaves the BJP,” said state Congress vice-president Pradip Bhattacharya.

Reacting to the proposed majajot, the Congress leader said his party has no reservations about “like-minded non-Left” forces in the state barring the BJP and its allies. “We had agreed to Mamata’s mahajot during the Assembly polls but it was she who had abruptly broken the whole thing, much to our disappointment,” he said.

The state unit of the Samajwadi Party, too, has come closer to Mamata in the wake of party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s strained relations with the CPM on the election of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

The new bonhomie was evident in Mamata’s presence at a Samajwadi rally in the city to protest the railway bifurcation last month.

Samajwadi’s Bengal unit chief Vijay Upadhyaya said plans are afoot to organise a public meeting where “Mulayamji and Mamata can share a platform”. “I have already spoken to Mulayamji on this score and he may come to Calcutta after the pujas for the purpose,” he added.

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