The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress walks Mamata tightrope

Calcutta, Oct. 6: The harder Mamata Banerjee tries to bol-ster the wobbly alliance with Sonia Gandhi’s Congress to confront the Left on land acquisition in Singur, the greater appears the state Congress leaders’ desire to have the pact fitted into their own personal scheme of things.

The faction-ridden state Congress unit is now divided over Mamata, her movement targeting land acquisition for Tata Motors’ factory, and the bandh she has called on Monday.

“To understand what our leaders actually mean, read their eyes, not lips,” said a Congress functionary who, like many others in his party, likes to believe that Mamata’s current initiative will bear fruit if, among other things, his leaders stay committed to the alliance.

Within the Congress, a sizeable group led by Priya Ranjan Das Munshi is supporting Mamata. Former Trinamul rebel Subrata Mukherjee, Abdul Mannan, Shankar Singh and D.P. Roy are part of this group.

Mukherjee, however, is hogging the limelight because of his high-decibel campaign for the alliance under the leadership of Mamata, who continues to count him among her foes.

“It will be unkind to look at my efforts in that light. I have been suggesting a durable tie-up with Mamata for a long time for the benefit of all anti-Left forces,” he said.

Sources said Mukherjee has one eye on the Rajya Sabha and another on the office of the state Congress president.

Having been reduced to a near non-entity — he is not even an MLA now — Mukherjee realises he cannot make a move without Mamata’s blessings. “I know Dinesh’s (Trivedi) term in the Rajya Sabha is coming to an end next year and Mamata and the Congress will have to decide on a new nominee, but I am not talking about the alliance now with my mind on what is going to happen next year.”

Going by signs, state Congress president and defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, working president Pradip Bhattacharya, legislature party leader Manas Bhuniya and former state president Somen Mitra are believed to be in favour of a cautious approach, though, like others, they realise the importance of Mamata in the anti-Left space.

Not known for speaking his mind, Das Munshi, currently a votary of the alliance with Mamata, is going around offering critical sound bites on Tata Motors’ Singur project.

But many in Trinamul feel tempted to believe that Das Munshi, a seasoned politician who keeps escape hatches open, has taken due care not to burn his bridges with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government and Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata.

Unhappy with the goings-on, Margaret Alva, the AICC general secretary in charge of Bengal, last night asked Bengal leaders to “stop bickering” and rally behind Mamata “to stabilise the alliance”.

Chided by the high command, Bhattacharya, also a contender for the state party president’s office, went about organising two rallies in support of Mamata’s bandh.

Alva said from Delhi tonight that she has asked Bhattacharya to come to the capital after the bandh to discuss joint movements with Mamata in the near future.

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