The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress casts backwards net

Calcutta, Jan. 4: Wiser after the Gujarat elections where the BJP was swept to power due to consolidation of Hindu votes, the West Bengal Congress has decided to concentrate on winning the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and minority vote banks in the coming panchayat elections, slated for May.

State Congress president Pranab Mukherjee today said the party managers had launched a campaign in the rural belt to strengthen the party’s support base among the target communities. “Though we enjoy considerable support among the minority community and the SCs and STs, we are still lagging behind in most of the 78 reserved constituencies represented by Left Front legislators. This time we are determined to make inroads in these constituencies,” he said.

The PCC chief made it clear that people here would not accept the BJP’s Gujarat line as there is no scope for communal politics. “Unlike in Gujarat, the electorate here is judicious about choosing their representatives on the basis of their performance. We firmly believe that the results of the Gujarat Assembly elections will have no bearing on the panchayat elections here,” he said.

Before leaving for Delhi to participate in the party’s working committee meeting, Mukherjee unveiled a well-furnished press corner at the PCC headquarters. Jayanta Bhattacharya, Trinamul Congress-backed independent member of Rajya Sabha, and former PCC chief Somen Mitra were among those present.

Replying to a question, Mukherjee said the party would not tie up with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress “until and unless she (Mamata) snaps relations with the NDA and the BJP”. He also ruled out the possibility of formation of a mahajot (grand alliance) of like-minded parties before the panchayat elections.

“We joined forces with Mamata during Assembly elections to float a mahajot but it did not make any headway. That is why, we are opposed to such a grand alliance,” he said, adding that the party would contest the elections independently.

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