The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata in Round II

Calcutta, Jan. 17: The advocates of a Congress-Trinamul Congress alliance before the Assembly elections received a fillip today as Mamata Banerjee agreed to discuss such a possibility with Pranab Mukherjee once again.

The Trinamul Congress chief is likely to call on state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee on January 23 or 24. She had last met him on New Year’s Eve.

“After getting a letter from Pranabda, I spoke to him and we both agreed to hold another round of talks on the proposed alliance. The meeting will be held on January 23 or 24, on his return from Oman,” Mamata said this afternoon.

Mukherjee, also the defence minister, had yesterday said that the Congress had formally written to Mamata offering to project her as the Opposition candidate for chief minister. The only condition was that she has to snap ties with the BJP, which she has stoutly refused to do all along.

Mamata had yesterday denied having received any such letter.

On the BJP, she stuck to her known stand today, saying she is open to a discussion with the Congress provided the party stops harping on her relations with the BJP.

“I made it clear to Pranabda on December 31 that I will continue to be in the NDA. But in our effort to oust the Marxists from Bengal, we could work out a strategy to stitch together all anti-Left forces for the coming polls,” Mamata said.

“I am not asking the Congress to stop taking support from the CPM to run its UPA government at the Centre. So, it should also not advise me...” she added.

Mamata also refused to buy information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi’s argument that the Congress could not forge an alliance with Trinamul because of its BJP connections.

Addressing a Youth Congress rally in the city, Das Munshi had said the Congress is hopeful of an alliance with Mamata minus the BJP.

“Then tell me how the Congress tied up with the Trinamul-BJP combine to form the Malda zilla parishad and over a dozen municipal boards and panchayat samitis in several other districts' How could the Congress back the Trinamul-BJP board in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation from 2000 till 2005'” Mamata asked.

If the Congress can tie up with her at the district level, it can also do so for the race to the Assembly. “The Congress should get rid of its prejudiced notions and think how just one Opposition nominee can be put up in each of the 294 seats.”

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