| (From left) Subrata Mukherjee and Somen Mitra with (right) Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday
Calcutta, May 8: Finally, a minijot (mini alliance) is in place to take on the CPM and the original proponent of the mahajot (grand alliance), Mamata Banerjee.
The Congress and mayor Subrata Mukherjee's Paschimbanga Unnayan Congress Mancha ' which comprises a string of eight small parties ' will contest the civic polls together under the banner of the United Democratic Alliance that was launched today.
It will project Mukherjee, who served as the Trinamul Congress mayor for the past five years, as its candidate for the top job in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.
Defence minister and Bengal Congress president Pranab Mukherjee said the alliance's main target was the Assembly elections, due next year.
'Today, we have launched the United Democratic Alliance in line with the United Progressive Alliance at the Centre. Let us strengthen the alliance so that we can oust the CPM from Bengal in the 2006 Assembly elections. The upcoming polls to the corporation is just a stepping stone towards our main goal,' he said.
Mamata said the alliance is 'an umbrella of disgruntled people who have no political existence in Bengal'.
Without naming the mayor, Mamata also said: 'We have no place for CPM agents in Trinamul. My party has got a rebirth after such traitors' exit from the party. These people were not with us when I floated Trinamul in 1998.'
She alleged that the alliance was formed at the behest of the CPM. 'It is a fixed game between the Congress and the CPM to weaken the principal Opposition party in Bengal. Those who think it will be successful are living in a fool's paradise. Our party is the only alternative to the Left Front,' she said, adding: 'In Delhi, the CPM is backing the Congress. In Bengal, the Congress is helping the CPM.'
Congress veteran A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury, Union water resources minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, former state party chief Somen Mitra and Tariq Anwar of the Nationalist Congress Party were present at the launch of the alliance of 'like-minded secular democratic parties'. Saifuddin Chowdhury, the former CPM MP who is now a leader of the Party for Democratic Socialism, was also present.
'The formation of an anti-CPM front was the need of the hour. We tried to float such a front earlier but did not succeed. Thanks to Subrata for taking the major initiative,' Pranab Mukherjee said.
He regretted that Mamata stayed away. 'Those still with the BJP should snap ties and join our platform,' he said.
State CPM secretary Anil Biswas refused to attach any importance to the new alliance. 'It is inconsequential,' he told an election rally at Naktala in south Calcutta.