The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Panja gravitates towards Cong

Calcutta, May 21: While Mamata Banerjee waits for a re-induction into the Union Cabinet, Trinamul Congress rebel, Ajit Panja, who fell out with her over withdrawal from the NDA government, seems to be preparing to return to the Congress.

After months in the political wilderness, he is convinced that a rapprochement with Mamata is not on the cards, at least for now. He has put up his daughter, Mohua Mondal, as the Congress candidate in the byelections to the Vidyasagar Assembly seat on June 8. The bypolls were necessitated by the death of Left Front chief whip Lakshmi De.

The Congress has welcomed Panja. “We strongly feel that a joint campaign with Panja in favour of his daughter’s candidature and a regular interaction with him will help us come together more in the coming days,” said state Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee.

Senior Congress leaders, including Mukherjee and former PCC chief Somen Mitra, are scheduled to address a string of meetings jointly with Panja between June 1 and 5 in parts of central Calcutta that make up most of the Vidyasagar constituency.

“We have no problems in re-admitting Panja into the party fold. In fact, our doors are open for all those who had defected to Trinamul,” Mukherjee said, adding that several Trinamul leaders have contacted them in the wake of the party’s poor performance in the panchayat polls.

Though Panja was not available for comment, sources close to him said he would rejoin the Congress soon after the bypolls.

Mohua had lost to De in 2001 under the Trinamul banner as Mamata stayed away from the campaign following a standoff with Panja.

“I remember those days when Baba was humiliated almost every day for raising his voice against Mamatadi. The time has come for him to have second thoughts on whether he would stick to the Trinamul Congress or rejoin his parent party. However, I have nothing to say about his political career,” she said this afternoon.

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