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Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata sees alliance door ajar

Jan. 22: A day after the Congress's national leadership ruled out a tie-up with Mamata Banerjee unless she snapped her BJP ties, the Trinamul Congress chief said she was still hopeful of the emergence of an anti-Left alliance ahead of the Assembly elections.

'I am least bothered about what the AICC has said on the proposed alliance. Something can still be worked out if we sit across the table to discuss measures to prevent a split in anti-CPM votes,' Mamata told a rally at Uttarpara in Hooghly, about 20 km from Calcutta, this afternoon.

As part of her one-point mission, she will call on defence minister and state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee at his south Calcutta residence on January 28.

'Doors are still open for discussion,' Mamata said. 'I believe that real Congress supporters, who have been victims of CPM atrocities over the years, will rise to the occasion,' she added.

The Trinamul leader reminded the audience that the Congress-Trinamul combine had suffered electoral reverses in the 2001 polls because the BJP was kept out.

'Don't forget, the CPM is our main enemy and we lost by a small margin in several places last time because of a swing in favour of the BJP. Let us not repeat the blunder. I want all anti-CPM forces, including the BJP, to come together so that one Opposition nominee can take on a Left Front candidate. If it (the alliance) works out, the front is bound to lose this time.'

In the 294-member Assembly, the front has 200 seats.

Trinamul has 59, the Congress 30, the GNLF 3 and the SUCI 2.

The Congress, Mamata warned, should not walk into the CPM's divide-and-rule trap. 'It has to decide within a week or two whether it is serious about taking on the communists.'

At the Hyderabad plenary of the Congress, party general secretary Ambika Soni told reporters yesterday that the party has a 'well established policy of not having any truck with communal forces and those who had ties with it'.

However, former Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra said from Hyderabad today that he still feels 'the doors are not closed for discussion'.

Trinamul sources said that Mamata has been getting feelers from a section of the Congress.

Besides Congress MP from Malda A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury and former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, half-a-dozen MLAs such as Shankar Singh and Abdul Mannan have voiced support for the Trinamul chief.

State CPM secretary Anil Biswas said such an alliance would never materialise. 'Do not ask me to comment on the possibility of such an alliance,' he told reporters.

Observers, however, said a covert understanding between Congress's and Mamata's supporters is bound to take place at the grassroots level.

In a bid to prove her secular credentials, BJP ally Mamata has called a meeting of the party's minority cell on January 30. Its president, Sultan Ahmed, said Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar will attend the programme.

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