The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Radical end to BJP script for Mamata

Calcutta, Dec. 29: The first script on how Mamata Banerjee would end her fast yesterday had been agreed between Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and her emissaries.

Once the chief minister’s letter arrived at her fast platform around 6.30 pm, there was a dramatic turn in the tale. For six hours, she kept everybody guessing as BJP leaders in Delhi told her to hang on until they wrote their own script.

Frequent parleys between leaders at the fast site and those in Delhi centred on whether Mamata should end the fast that night or today.

The BJP wanted to make the declaration of her lifting the fast a party affair, preferably blessed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, rather than a response to anyone else’s appeal.

The BJP and its national political agenda, rather than Bhattacharjee’s appeal or Singur, dominated this script. Although Mamata, too, had gratefully accepted the BJP’s role in lifting her campaign to the national plane, she had not quite bargained for this twist.

The chief minister’s letter did not satisfy her, but her party persuaded her that nothing more was to be expected at this stage. She agreed to end the fast, but wanted to do so in the presence of Vajpayee.

“We were expecting Vajpayeeji to come to our dais. Since he could not make it, Rajnath Singh (BJP chief) decided to visit Mamata,” Trinamul leader Partha Chatterjee said.

There were some hints that Vajpayee would make an appeal on TV. He issued a letter, but it got drowned in the publicity the President’s and the Prime Minister’s messages received. He also spoke to her over phone while Rajnath was in constant touch with Mamata.

There was one other important factor in Mamata’s decision to withdraw the fast. Her radical Left allies in the Save Farmland Committee, spearheading the protest in Singur, were not happy with the BJP intrusion, manifest first in Rajnath’s visit to Mamata some days ago.

They were even more unhappy when they realised the BJP could hijack the Singur protest — had Vajpayee or Rajnath come down to Calcutta and Mamata broken her fast in their presence, that possibility would have been strong.

They argued for her to end the fast last night itself instead of waiting for any more developments. Mamata accepted that line of thinking and it was decided that the letters from A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh and Vajpayee would all be cited while calling off the 25-day hunger strike.

Samir Putatunda, who broke away from the CPM and is on Mamata’s side on Singur, said: “Let us say that the hunger strike has been called off due to the intervention of Singh, Vajpayee and Kalam.”

The Prime Minister today called Bhattacharjee to congratulate him on his “statesmanlike decision”. Smiling, Bhattacharjee said: “It’s in bad taste to repeat how the Prime Minister praised me. Write what you know.”

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