The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata feted, boos for Advani
- Supporters rally behind Trinamul leader

Calcutta, May 25: Many of Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee’s decisions in the past have dismayed her party colleagues — quitting the Vajpayee ministry after the Tehelka revelations, teaming up with the Congress for the 2001 Assembly election only to break again.

Not this time. Trinamul supporters rallied behind Mamata as she and leaders close to her weighed the options for dealing with rebel MP Sudip Bandopadhyay.

The combative mood was summed up by Shakti Mondal, a district leader who was in the steady stream of supporters from outside Calcutta to Mamata’s home or the party’s new office.

“We may be small compared to them (the BJP), but we do not lack self-respect or dignity,” Mondal said.

Whoever wrote the script that disintegrated into a farce last evening when Trinamul did not join the ministry — and authorship is being attributed to deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani — grossly misread the consequences.

Advani has opposed Mamata’s re-entry in the past and, having given in, may have wanted to scuttle it by insisting that Bandopadhyay, who has played footsie with senior BJP leaders, would also have to be brought in — whether she agreed or not.

She did not and neither got in. If this were Advani’s intention in the first place — to stop her from returning, knowing full well that Mamata would not swallow Sudip, however her desperation to become a minister — he has succeeded.

But, at least in Bengal, the applause for the success cannot be heard. The ploy a section of the BJP leadership used has a stink that is offensive to all nostrils.

Mamata’s supporters were today chanting slogans, urging her to “teach the BJP a lesson”. Advani and BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu were the butts of scorn for what party functionaries saw as their role in the plot to break Trinamul.

“Mamata showed us how to fight for dignity. If she had not stood up and spurned the offer of ministry, Advani and company would have broken Trinamul,” said Mala Roy, the party’s women wing president.

Mamata chose to savour her moment behind closed doors, in the company of relatives, sketching or crooning.

The song coming out of Delhi sounded somewhat different. Finding himself in a spot — those who have rebelled against Mamata have only melted away, Ajit Panja being one example — Bandopadhyay called for unity.

“If something has happened, it has to be repaired,” he said.

It is going to take some repairing because the scramble for his plum Calcutta Northwest Lok Sabha seat, with the election due next year, has already started as the leadership considers whether to renominate him.

Calcutta mayor Subrata Mukherjee, now one of Mamata’s close advisers, said about her plans: “She will first fix an appointment (with Vajpayee) and leave for Delhi.” That will be after the Prime Minister returns from his trip to Europe, starting Tuesday.

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