The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vajpayee cool to Mamata brigade call

New Delhi, Jan. 1: The Trinamul Congress leadership wants its proposed party rally against the CPM’s “misrule” in Calcutta on January 6 to send the signal of a “new political equation” in West Bengal, but top BJP leaders are not enthused.

Though Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee wants to use the rally to rebuild her bridges with the saffron top brass, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, currently cosying up to Jayalalithaa and Mayavati, have no time for Mamata.

With just four days left for the rally, the Trinamul chief’s frantic efforts to get the BJP top brass to address the gathering have not borne fruit.

Much to Mamata’s chagrin, both the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister have refused to attend the rally, though she had requested them long ago.

Snubbed by the BJP’s Big Two, Mamata requested BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu to do the honours. Sources said Naidu is yet to confirm his participation though he has told Mamata that he would “consider” her request.

The only saving grace appears to be NDA convener and defence minister George Fernandes. The sources said Fernandes and his Samata Party colleague and minister of state for external affairs Digvijay Singh are likely to attend the rally.

The sources added that while the Prime Minister’s Office declined on the ground that Vajpayee was not free, Advani has declined to associate with the Trinamul chief as he is “not sure” whether Trinamul is completely with the NDA.

Advani, who has of late been cultivating rebel Trinamul leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, had gladly accepted BSP chief Mayavati’s request and addressed her “dhikkar” rally in Lucknow recently.

A Trinamul source today said over phone from Calcutta that the party is still expecting the Prime Minister to come. “It will be a boost (for the party) if he comes,” he said.

Naidu, currently on a trip to Singapore and Bangkok, is returning here on January 5. Sources close to Naidu said he may go if there was no other important work in Delhi. If he fails to make it, he may ask general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to represent the party at the rally.

Trinamul sources said the party is also trying to get communications minister Pramod Mahajan to attend the rally, though his relations with Mamata had soured after he had breakfast with Bandopadhyay in Calcutta. Mahajan had attended the rally last year.

The party is planning to form a broad anti-CPM front in West Bengal and the success of the rally is crucial to its political strategy.

Party sources said such a front would strengthen the Trinamul’s fight against the “atrocities, economic bankruptcy and deterioration in law and order” perpetuated by the Marxists.

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