The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PMO freezes Mamata foray

New Delhi, Nov. 28: Mamata Banerjee’s foray into national politics in the heart of power has come unstuck, courtesy the BJP and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Trinamul Congress chief failed to show up today for two public meetings scheduled in Delhi. The party has fielded Devdas Sonkar from Karol Bagh and Bhai Mahinder Kumar Bala from Paharganj here.

The pullout and the resultant washout occurred after the PMO rang her up, asking her not to address the rallies. The BJP had earlier failed to get Mamata to withdraw her candidates.

Sonkar, a meat and fish trader originally from Bihar, was hoping “crowdpuller Didi” would do the trick for him. Last night, he had said: “I have made all the arrangements. If Mamata Banerjee does not come, I will get the boot.”

Today, however, he appeared reconciled. “Because of some fire in Calcutta, she is not coming. But it is my job to fight whether she comes or not,” he said. “I know Bengali, too,” Sonkar added.

Party MLA Tapas Pal, who is an actor, was also scheduled to address the meeting, but backed out on the excuse that the flight he was to take got cancelled. No party MP turned up either.

Without Mamata, who was to arrive here last night, the public meetings were converted into padayatras, led by party general secretary Mukul Roy and youth wing chief Madan Mitra.

It appears Mamata, who received the fateful call from an aide of the Prime Minister, was never serious about the Delhi polls. She was apparently trying to get even with the Marxists as the CPM had decided to field three candidates from the national capital.

Trinamul, however, did not put up any candidate from Bengali-dominated areas in Delhi such as Chittaranjan Park, Kalkaji, Geeta Colony and Gandhi Nagar.

Asked why Mamata did not come, the party’s poll in-charge, Chandranath Mukherjee, said she had to visit a colony ravaged by fire. Trinamul MPs, he added, were busy campaigning for the civic elections in Bengal.

Roy explained the party’s difficulty in pulling out its candidates at the eleventh hour. The last date for withdrawal of candidates is over and any move now would flout the model code of conduct, he said. “We will contest. The CPM also has fielded two or three candidates. We are in the NDA at the Centre,” Roy said.

Senior BJP leader and Union minister Tapan Sikdar and Bengal BJP chief Tathagata Roy were both irked by Trinamul’s attempt to poach their territory in Delhi and wanted Mamata to withdraw her candidates.

Roy, however, wondered what the fuss was about because other NDA allies such as the Samata Party, the Janata Dal (United) and the Shiv Sena were also in the fray.

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