The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong distances from Mamata

Calcutta, Oct. 15: The Congress today cited its national-level interests to take a step back from its developing relations with Mamata Banerjee.

At a meeting to weigh a possible joint battle against the CPM, the state Congress voiced the standard objection to the Trinamul Congress’s BJP links and decided not to dilute its “ideological commitment to secularism”.

“Ours is an all-India party and we must not forget that Assembly elections are due in five states early next year,” Pradesh Congress Committee working president Pradip Bhattacharya was quoted as saying at the secretariat meeting.

“The Congress can discuss a joint movement with Mamata keeping in view its ideological commitment to forming a secular democratic front in Bengal,” Bhattacharya later told reporters, quoting a resolution adopted unanimously.

Mamata, who has been sent a copy, will react tomorrow at a news conference, Trinamul sources said.

Bhattacharya, who leaves for Delhi tomorrow to brief the party’s national leadership, made it clear the Congress would not join the Trinamul’s dharna in the city on Wednesday on the Singur issue.

“We’ll need AICC (All India Congress Committee) clearance to participate in Trinamul-sponsored programmes,” he explained.

Asked if he considered Mamata “secular”, Bhattacharya said: “You had better put that question to AICC.”

Margaret Alva, AICC general secretary in charge of Bengal, said over the phone that her party could not tie up with Mamata unless she snapped her BJP ties.

“The PCC is right to adopt a resolution on this score,” she said. “However, I must talk to Mamata to read her mind.”

Today’s meeting was called to discuss Mamata’s letter inviting the Congress for a joint movement against the CPM on issues like the acquisition of farmland in Singur for a Tata Motors small-car factory. The Congress’s decision to back her October 9 bandh had encouraged Mamata.

Of the state secretariat’s 34 members, 32 attended the meeting. It censured party leader Subrata Mukherjee for visiting the Trinamul headquarters and addressing news conferences with former Trinamul MP Ajit Panja.

There were dissenting voices, too. A state secretary said: “If we are opposed to Mamata for her BJP links, why did we help her candidate at last month’s Bongaon Assembly by-election by not fielding one of ours'”


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