The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Iftar shows up BJP rift

Calcutta, Nov. 23: BJP state president Tathagata Ray was conspicuous by his absence at the iftar hosted by Union minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Tapan Sikdar in the city today.

“Venkaiah Naidu has asked the state president to resolve any differences of opinion with me as soon as possible. The meeting will take place as soon as I can manage,” Sikdar said.

Asked whether he intended to run a parallel administration in the state, Sikdar said: “I am with the party since its inception and will never embark on such a damaging course of action. Why should I engineer a parallel organisation in West Bengal when I have the power to dominate the state committee of the party'”

The Union minister, who even the other day said the new state committee president was a “misguided leader engaged in the race of belittling party workers and helping the CPM before the panchayat elections”, was cautious today.

At the iftar, Sikdar said Ray’s absence should not be misconstrued as a reflection of the ongoing differences. “The state president is not in town and his absence shouldn’t really be interpreted in any other light.”

Ray, however, recently went on record saying that he didn’t like attending iftars.

“The differences between us, if any, will be sorted out through dialogue. The BJP and the Trinamul Congress still jointly control a considerable number of panchayats and municipalities in West Bengal. We even run the show at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation,” the Union minister said.

He said it was the Trinamul that “ditched” the NDA coalition just before the last Assembly polls in West Bengal.

“Our doors are always open but we’re not ready to woo others as in the past. This is precisely where I disagree with the state president,” he pointed out.

The Central minister, in connection with the party’s district conference barely a week ago, had gone on record, saying: “But then why should one start begging for seat adjustments' It is Mamata Banerjee who described the BJP as a communal party and distanced herself from the NDA over the division of the Eastern Railway.”

BJP spokesman Sunil Shastri said the state leadership of the party in West Bengal should immediately resolve any differences and put up a joint show. Muzaffar Khan and Ashim Ghosh of the BJP were present at the iftar along with Somen Mitra of the Congress.

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