The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata in trek-back mode
- Hunt on for face-saver to end Assembly boycott

Calcutta, July 4: Mamata Banerjee today intensified her search for a face-saver on the route back to the Assembly to contain louder rumblings in the Trinamul Congress.

All 59 Trinamul MLAs are staying away from the House since the budget session resumed on June 20.

Signalling a re-think, Mamata said it is not desirable to “boycott” the Assembly when people want “us to highlight their problems on the floor of the House”.

She, however, demanded that Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim should write to leader of Opposition Pankaj Banerjee, requesting him to join the House. “We want a reply from Halim in response to our letter to him,” Mamata added.

Trinamul sources said, bowing to pressure from MLAs determined to return to the House defying her whip, Mamata was looking for an escape hatch.

Dipak Ghosh, the Trinamul legislator suspended on charges of circulating a letter among party MLAs asking them to join the Assembly, today claimed to have received support from more than a dozen legislators.

The Speaker, however, said he will not write to the Trinamul legislature party leader. “Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who is the leader of the House, has already made an appeal to the Trinamul legislators, requesting them to join the Assembly as the presence of the Opposition is desirable in a democratic setup,” he added.

“I feel it is childish on the part of the principal Opposition party to boycott the Assembly,” Halim said.

Former state Congress president Somen Mitra echoed the Speaker. Trinamul should return to the House at the earliest, he said.

“Mamata is desperately looking for a face-saving device to come out of the boycott imbroglio. This is necessary to stem the rebellion in her organisation,” said Mitra.

Mamata today asked her party’s MLAs and councillors to attend Sunday’s programme at Trinamul Bhavan, where deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani will be present.

Trinamul sources said she particularly asked leaders from the minority community to attend the programme. The move is being interpreted as an attempt to show Advani that she enjoys considerable clout within the community despite her “proximity with the saffron party”.

“We have been told to be present all through Advani’s programme,” said member of mayor-in-council, in charge of education, Mainul Haque Chowdhury.

Mayor-in-council member in charge of slum development Javed Khan scotched rumours about his staying away from the programme. “This is a planned campaign against some of us to strain our relations with Mamata,” he added.

A section of the press had earlier reported that minority community leaders in Trinamul were reluctant to be present at a programme attended by BJP leader Advani.

Security setup

Security agencies today geared up to mount a cover around the deputy Prime Minister during his Sunday cruise along the Hooghly from Belur Math to Princep Ghat.

Several drills have been lined up to make Advani’s security fool-proof. Traffic on Howrah Bridge will be restricted for a few minutes during the VIP cruise. Pedestrian movement, too, is likely to be stopped when Advani’s boat passes under the bridge.

Police would be posted on some spots along the river, including Millennium Park and Babughat. An official, however, said: “We haven’t got any specific security threat.”

“As he will cruise along the river for more than an hour, officials have to co-ordinate with security agencies and draw up elaborate arrangements,” said the deputy commissioner of police, headquarters.

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