The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ghani tells Sonia to toe Mamata line

Malda, Jan. 16: Mamata Banerjee today found an ally in Congress patriarch Ghani Khan Chowdhury who dared party president Sonia Gandhi to prevent the formation of an alliance against the Left Front.

Mamata has pinned her hopes on Ghani Khan, who is not averse to joining hands with Trinamul even if it does not part ways with the BJP, a condition laid down by Bengal Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee.

The Trinamul leader met the Malda MP at his Kotwali residence this afternoon and sought his support in forging a front to fight the Left. She wasn't disappointed as Ghani Khan, who has in the past maintained that only a united front could oust the Left, took on the Congress high command.

'We want the grand alliance with the Trinamul Congress and the BJP in the state. If Sonia Gandhi does not agree to what we want, she can tread her own path and we will stick to ours. We will not bow to any pressure this time,' he said.

Before Mamata's arrival, Ghani Khan, while talking to reporters, took a dig at Pranab for 'pandering' to the CPM to keep his place intact. 'There are some Congress leaders who are directly to blame for the Left Front's continuation in power. The people of the state are fed up by their misrule and leaders like Pranab Mukherjee are misleading Sonia Gandhi,' he said.

The Malda MP said he would meet Sonia at the AICC conference in Hyderabad on January 21 and tell her about the 'ground reality' in Bengal.

Mamata had a 15-minute one-on-one with Ghani Khan. 'You go ahead with your plans, I am with you. There are some leaders who are against the alliance. That does not matter, the people of Bengal are ready for it. If you and I are firm, the alliance is bound to come through,' he told Mamata at the closed-door meeting. He then offered the Trinamul leader any seat in Malda if she wished to enter the Assembly.

The bitterness of 2001, when Mamata's stubborn stance on seat sharing had led to a CPM resurgence in Ghani Khan's bastion, appeared to have gone.

'If we have leaders like you with us, there will be straight contests with the Left in all the seats. You have to take the responsibility of convincing the leaders in Delhi. You have been with the Congress for so long, what have you got from the party' This time, let Delhi think in its own way, the CPM is the enemy here and to defeat them we will have to unite,' Mamata told the octogenarian leader.

She promised a transparent alliance. 'There will be no secrets, we will create the alliance openly, there are many Congress leaders who are in favour of the strategy. We could not do it in 2001. This year, the people will win. The CPM has survived for 29 years by using false voters, fake ration cards and terror. Barkatda (as Ghani Khan is known) has shown the way and we will follow,' Mamata said.

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