The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata’s vote for secular pact
- Trinamul’s NDA exit imminent, says a leader

Calcutta, Aug. 29: A day after she declared her support for a Congress candidate, Mamata Banerjee told close aides in the party she was not averse to leading a secular anti-Left forum in her fight against the CPM.

The Congress had wanted the Trinamul Congress chief to do just that before the May Assembly polls, but Mamata did not want to leave her ally BJP.

The BJP is still a partner, but the Congress is more important to Mamata after the drubbing three months ago.

“We have to find ways to oust the Marxists from Bengal. I don’t mind steering a secular anti-Left front to ensure that the CPM is thrown out of Bengal. But at the moment, my primary concern is to see that the Congress retains Malda,” Mamata is learnt to have said today.

A key Trinamul functionary confirmed that Mamata has made up her mind to quit the BJP-led NDA. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Trinamul sources said Mamata held a string of meetings with her aides since last night to find out whether her decision to back the Congress in Malda had gone down well with the party’s ranks.

Asked if she would campaign for the Congress in Malda, Mamata told The Telegraph: “I shall take a decision in a day or two. But to honour Barkatda, I will do whatever is possible for me.”

The Lok Sabha seat fell vacant with the death of Congress veteran Ghani Khan Chowdhury, Mamata’s Barkatda.

Mamata had said yesterday that Trinamul would not contest Malda to honour Ghani Khan, whose brother Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury is the Congress nominee. He filed his nomination today.

A senior Trinamul leader said: “The realignment of forces was bound to take place before the panchayat polls slated for next year.”

The BJP’s support did not help her much in the 2004 Lok Sabha and 2006 Assembly polls. Mamata is Trinamul’s lone MP from Bengal and the party has 30 MLAs in the 294-member Assembly. “So, Mamata took the initiative to bring all anti-Left forces, but the BJP, together. The steady erosion of her Muslim vote bank was also a concern for Mamata,” the Trinamul leader added.

Congress leaders sounded excited about the coming together. “We had called upon Mamata to come out of the NDA and lead a secular democratic front ahead of the Assembly elections. Now the time has come…” said former state party chief Somen Mitra.

An enraged BJP lashed out at Mamata. State BJP general secretary Rahul Sinha described her decision to support the Congress as “treachery”.

“If she thinks the BJP is a liability, we, too, consider her a burden on us. We’ll fare better in the polls minus her support,” he added.

“Why does she not then leave the NDA and join the UPA'” asked state party president Tathagata Roy, who is now in Delhi to apprise party chief Rajnath Singh about the developments.

Trinamul leader Saugata Roy, who lost the Dhakuria Assembly seat in May, filed his nomination in Bongaon today.

A section of Trinamul supporters led by Gopal Seth, son of Bhupen Seth, the Trinamul MLA whose death had necessitated the poll, branded Roy an outsider and protested against his nomination.

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