The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong vows to take on Mamata

Calcutta, March 26: Days after Mamata Banerjee's homily on political rights and moral wrongs, as Sonia Gandhi found herself cornered by the office-of-profit controversy, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee said the Congress would campaign against her party in the run-up to the elections.

'Something politically ri-ght can be morally wrong,' the Trinamul Congress chief had said on Wednesday. The day after, she added that Sonia had 'no option' but to step down as an MP and chief of the National Advisory Council.

It was apparent today that Mamata's comments have not gone down well with the Congress. 'Those who are going with the BJP (Trinamul is its ally) will have to explain their conduct to the people for unnecessarily criticising the Congress president. We shall expose them during our election campaign,' Mukherjee said without naming Mamata.

Sonia's resignation would have a 'positive impact' on the party's fate in the elections in five states, he told a news conference. 'We must high- light the fact that Sonia Gandhi, who had earlier declined to be Prime Minister, has introduced a new element in Indian politics by deciding to resign as an MP and go to the people to explain her position,' Mukherjee, also the Bengal Congress president, said.

Observers said Mamata's remarks on Sonia had particularly ruffled the state Congress brass as she had never picked on her in the past, even when she dubbed the party the 'CPM's B team'.

Her ire, they added, was understandable as she had tried hard to strike a seat-sharing deal with the Congress to consolidate anti-Left votes.

Mukherjee, with whom Mamata had a couple of rounds of talks for a seat adjustment, had repeatedly pointed out that it was impossible until she snapped ties with the BJP.

Mukherjee today said the state Congress had acted judiciously by not aligning with Trinamul. 'The so-called grand alliance with Trinamul would have proved a disaster.'

He added: 'We cannot tie up with a party that has BJP links just to prevent a split in anti-Left votes.' The Congress will put up nominees for 257 seats out of the 294. The rest will go to allies.

Sabita Das, the Independent Calcutta Municipal Corporation councillor whose supporters had allegedly heckled Mukherjee at the state party headquarters last May after being denied a ticket for the civic polls, joined the Congress today. 'Let's forget the past,' she said, seated next to Mukherjee.

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