The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebel Panja returns, rebel Sudip sulks

Calcutta, July 22: Mamata Banerjee drafted in a rebel into the fold yesterday but another threatened to blow hot.

The Trinamul Congress chief appeared to have strained her relations with MP Sudip Bandopadhyay further with the reinduction of another MP, Ajit Panja, into the party.

Bandopadhyay’s supporters today said Panja’s return might stand in the way of his getting a berth in the Union cabinet in the event of a shuffle in the near future. Last time, Mamata resented the manner in which Bandopadhyay had directly approached the Prime Minister for securing a place in the cabinet.

Mamata had scuttled Bandopadhyay’s move by opting out of the cabinet herself. Trinamul sources said Mamata might push party MP Akbar Ali Khondakar as a minority face in the central cabinet this time.

Before leaving for Delhi, Bandopadhyay evaded a straight reaction to Panja’s reinduction but said he was “keeping a watch on the developments”. He resented the manner in which he was not allowed to address yesterday’s Trinamul rally at Esplanade. “Nobody invited me to the rally. Moreover, I was not allowed to address (the gathering) though I was present all through,” he complained to those close to him in the party.

The gulf between Mamata and Bandopadhyay became more apparent today with his comments. Some of his supporters met during the day to work out a strategy on ways to counter Mamata’s “new-found friendship” with Panja.

Buoyed by the withdrawal of his suspension, Panja said he would work with Mamata to rebuild the Trinamul organisation from the grassroots. “I have already spoken to Mamata to chalk out the course of action and will soon call on her,” he said tonight.

Panja added that he had sent some of his men to Mamata today to ensure that the news of his comeback to Trinamul reached the workers at the grassroots. “My first job is to send the message of reunion to the workers at the lowest level of the organisation. We have to gear them up for next year’s Lok Sabha elections,” he said.

His supporters said: “Gone are the days of misunderstanding within the party’s rank and file about strained relations between Didi (Mamata) and Ajitda. Let us start afresh to face challenges from the CPM,” said one of them.

However, the message about Panja’s return did not go down well with the Congress, which had hoped that he will return to his parent party.

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