The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Subrata breaks over dinner

Calcutta, April 26: Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress tonight suffered its biggest setback since inception in 1998 as mayor Subrata Mukherjee broke away with supporters to launch the Paschimbanga Unnayan Congress Mancha.

Like Mamata, who had walked out of the Congress and formed Trinamul as a platform for convergence of all anti-CPM forces, Mukherjee sought to position his forum as a bridge between non-Left parties, Trinamul included.

Most of his backers, however, favour an alliance with the Congress, now an anathema to Mamata.

'We at the Mancha are not going to confine ourselves to the civic polls in May and June,' said Mukherjee, who presented himself as its convener. 'We are going to contest the Assembly elections in 2006 under the Mancha's banner.'

Mukherjee and Tapas Roy, the Trinamul MLA from Burrabazar, would leave for Delhi tomorrow to meet Congress leaders with whom talks are already on regarding a possible alliance. Ambika Banerjee, the chairman of the forum, would focus on its spread in the districts.

'I will be delighted if Mamata takes the initiative and leads this forum as part of a grand anti-CPM alliance. She will be free not to take me' Mukherjee said.

Though, for all practical purposes, the mayor and his brigade have broken off from Trinamul, they continue to be part of the party.

Besides Roy and Banerjee, giving the mayor company were MLAs Nirbed Roy, Paras Dutta, Paresh Pal, Ashok Deb and Kashinath Mishra. Members of his Calcutta Municipal Corporation council like Shamsuzzamman Ansari, Moinul Huq Chowdhury, Amiya Mukherjee and Mala Roy, too, pledged their allegiance at a dinner he hosted at his south Calcutta home. Mayor-in-council member Hridayanand Gupta sent a letter wishing the forum's success.

The guests were treated to a simple ' but definitely not Spartan ' Bengali feast. (See chart)

Mukherjee said separate manifestos will be published for next month's municipal polls and the corporation elections in June . 'In the first, we will say the city's development will go ahead unhindered. The other will concentrate on Bengal.'

Trinamul leaders, including Mamata, who made frantic efforts to prevent the split, failed to keep party colleagues away from the dinner. However, the sort of success Mukherjee had was not immediately clear as many Trinamul functionaries expected to join him skipped the meal.

Key Trinamul leaders went into a huddle tonight. Mamata met Ajit Panja, who may be projected as a candidate for mayor.

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