The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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New BJP opens door to Mamata

Calcutta, Oct. 18: Mamata Banerjee has decided to dissociate from the NDA due to her standoff with the BJP on the railway bifurcation issue but the prospect of an alliance between her Trinamul Congress and the party for next year’s panchayat polls appeared live today.

The new chief of the BJP’s state unit, Tathagata Roy, announced this afternoon that his priority would be to tie up with Trinamul to ensure “a consolidation of anti-Left votes” before the panchayat elections slated for early 2003.

“The CPM is our main adversary in Bengal and we are determined to offer it a major jolt by consolidating anti-Left votes,” he said, hours after taking over charge at the party’s central Calcutta office today.

He replaced Asim Ghosh amid accusations that the latter had failed to consolidate the party’s organisation despite being at the helm for nearly three years.

Asked if he would call on Mamata to strike a seat-share deal, a smiling Roy said: “Eventually, I will have to talk to her, but before that I must set my own house in order.”

Roy’s hint that not everything is right within the party was a possible pointer that it would be a time-consuming task to prevail upon Union minister Tapan Sikdar and his associates, who have been opposing any electoral alliance with Trinamul.

BJP sources said the removal of Ghosh, a Sikdar aide, is aimed at downsizing the Union minister and his men for criticising Mamata on one pretext or the other.

Realising that the party would suffer a jolt as in the last Assembly election, both BJP president Venkaiah Naidu and party spokesman Arun Jaitley said here last month that they were not against “forging alliance” with Trinamul. “We may have problems with other parties, but not Mamata,” they said, much to Sikdar’s embarrassment.

However, suspended Trinamul MP Ajit Panja today called upon the new state BJP leadership to keep “safe distance” from an “unpredictable” Mamata.

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