The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata dangles carrot for Cong
- BJP cries foul as ally opens door to opponent & asks it to hurry up

Calcutta, March 13: Mamata Banerjee today announced Trinamul Congress candidates for 201 seats out of 294 leaving room for a last-minute understanding with the Congress and got the BJP fuming over the raw deal handed out to it.

'I expect a positive response from the Congress,' Mamata said. 'I deferred the announcement of our candidates because of talks with the Congress and I have left 93 seats untouched'. This is enough of a signal. But I cannot wait for an indefinite period.'

The Trinamul leader has slotted 23 seats for the BJP which, the party said, 'are unacceptable to us'.

State BJP president Tathagata Roy added: 'Moreover, the way Mamata has released her list unilaterally without consulting us is insulting. We have already told the central leadership about our reservations regarding the seats.'

In 2001, Mamata had fought the elections together with the Congress after dumping the BJP in the run-up to the polls. She offered 60 seats to the Congress and put up own candidates in the remaining 234.

Trinamul bagged 60 seats then and the Congress 26. Four Independents, whom the Congress had backed, also won.

Today Mamata declared she would not mind conceding more seats to the Congress.

However, at her meetings with Margaret Alva, the AICC general secretary in charge of Bengal, Mamata said they had spoken about 53 seats. 'I am not saying 53 is the final figure. It can always go up. But I believe that the Congress should come forward and take the opportunity to put up a united fight against the fascist CPM,' Mamata said.

'Alva, Pranab Mukherjee and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi wanted to talk to me and I did so. We understand the Congress's political compulsions at the Centre but why can't they join an anti-Left front in Bengal' Let's see what it does now,' she added.

Former state Congress chief Somen Mitra saw a 'positive signal' in Mamata's decla- ration. 'We must work out something,' he said.

Party working president Pradip Bhattacharya said the AICC leadership has been informed about the development.

Dipak Ghosh, the Trinamul MLA from Mahishadal, will this time take on Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Jadavpur.

Three other MLAs will also contest for new seats. Subrata Bakshi has been nominated from Chowringhee instead of Bishnupur; Sisir Adhikary, who has been replaced by son Subhendu in Contai South, will contest for Egra and Soumen Mahapatra has been shifted from Nandanpur to Jhargram.

Tollygunge MLA and leader of Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee has informed the leadership that he will not be able to contest the Tollygunge seat for health reasons. Mamata has asked him to reconsider the decision.

Reacting to the Trinamul move to keep its doors open for the Congress, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas said he was aware of a 'secret' pact.

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