The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mahajot twins praise Kashmir, trash Bengal

Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today joined state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee in hailing the outcome of the Jammu and Kashmir polls as a “victory for democracy” and expressing doubts over “the efficacy of the system in which Assembly polls are being held in West Bengal under CPM rule”.

Asked to comment on the outcome of the Kashmir polls, Mamata said her party had not yet studied the results. But she backed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s contention that the polls were a “victory for democracy”.

“The Jammu and Kashmir elections showed the people’s verdict was for change. People generally go for a change in the government during elections if the latter fails to keep its commitments. This is the general scenario. However, West Bengal happens to be an exception,” she observed.

Mukherjee told reporters at Kirnahar in Birbhum district during the day that the polls in Jammu and Kashmir had belied Pakistan’s propaganda about the absence of democracy in the state.

Mamata’s comments buttressed her oft-repeated charge about Bengal elections being rigged by the ruling Marxists to “stick to power”. Mukherjee, too, criticised the present system of booth-wise counting during panchayat elections and demanded that counting of ballots be held at the BDO or SDO offices.

“The ruling party workers resort to malpractices at the time of counting, which make a mockery of free and fair polls,” he said.

The Bengal Congress chief said his party will discuss the matter in its next meeting in Calcutta on October 30 and chalk out a programme of agitation on issues like payment of salaries to teachers, reduction in school and college fees and the law and order situation. He also demanded legal steps against those responsible for the Madhyamik marksheet mistakes.

Mamata declined to offer any credit to the state administration for maintaining peace and communal amity during the Pujas. “We are all happy that the puja days have passed off peacefully. But credit for this should go to the puja committees, local clubs and people in general. Our party workers also maintained vigil at different pandals in the wake of the alert about possible terrorist strikes,” she said.

Asked about the state administration’s role, the Trinamul leader said all it had done was to try and hinder puja revellers from visiting important pandals in some areas. “Even the CESC tried to disconnect power connection and harassed the puja committees before supplying meters. There was also unscheduled loadshedding during the puja days,” she alleged.

Mamata said a Trinamul working committee meeting to make an official announcement on the party’s stand vis-à-vis the NDA would be held before Parliament’s winter session.

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