The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Room in House goes with MPs
- Mamata to sit in central hall with leaders of small parties

Calcutta, May 16: Shorn of all MPs but two, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress stands to lose a status symbol in the capital — an exclusive room in Parliament.

Sometime tomorrow, Trinamul will formally notify the Parliament secretariat that it is giving up the room because it no longer has the minimum of eight MPs required to qualify for the facility.

“Under the existing rules, the room that we had will automatically go because we do not have the numbers to show off,” said a Trinamul leader.

“Mamata insists that we surrender it before there is a formal notice calling for it,” he added.

After the dip in fortunes, the two Trinamul MPs — Mamata herself and P.A Sangma, who joined her outfit before the elections — will have to sit in the central hall when not inside the House.

Like members of several small parties, they will sit on sofas in the hall when not taking part in the Lok Sabha proceedings.

Their staffers, too, will have to adjust. They will wait for their bosses seated on benches that line the corridor.

To avoid being seen in such a downsized state, Mamata is believed to be planning to work more out of her Baba Kharag Singh Marg residence than from Parliament.

In a way, 2004’s Trinamul reminded observers of 1951’s undivided Communist Party, which had only three members in the West Bengal Assembly, including Jyoti Basu. In close circles, Mamata has cited the example of Basu, a feisty legislator in the 1950s, while drawing up strategy for her parliamentary party.

But Trinamul functionaries did not sound convinced.

Sangma has apparently told the Trinamul leadership that he would not associate with any programme on the floor of the House — slogan shouting, rushing to the well or walking out — that might sully the image he built as the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Another upshot of the rout in which seven Trinamul MPs were trounced is its impact on party finances. Her former MPs — each drawing allowances in the region of Rs 25,000 a month for attending Parliament — used to donate Rs 1,000 for the upkeep of the party’s spacious Delhi office at 13, Mahadev Road.

With the MPs gone and so the donations, Trinamul officials admitted in private that it would be difficult to maintain the office in the upscale neighbourhood.

“The place needs at least Rs 30,000 a month — rent, phone bills, salaries, support services, petrol…,” an official said.

Although the former MPs are now skirting the office, Trinamul will be allowed to retain it for complying with the stipulation by participating in Assembly elections in four states and cornering 6 per cent of total votes polled there.

During the day, Mamata told a team of state BJP leaders to organise a Trinamul-BJP movement at the grassroots to “expose the ruling communists”. The BJP team had called on her at her Harish Chatterjee Street home.

Mamata said: “The party will discuss its poll debacle at a meeting of its working committee on Wednesday.”

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