The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A&A for lunch and tea

Calcutta/New Delhi, May 19: Lunch with Amar Singh last week, a teatime huddle with Ashok Ghosh today.

Like Mayavati, Mamata Banerjee, too, seems to be the flavour of the political season as she hops from one tete-a-tete to the other.

Two days after hosting the Samajwadi Party general secretary at her Delhi home, Mamata today walked into a Left Front partner’s office in Calcutta for the first time ever to discuss Nandigram with Forward Bloc secretary Ghosh.

It took her and Ghosh just 30 minutes to decide that the all-party meeting would be held on May 24 at Mahajati Sadan, and would discuss “all aspects” of Nandigram, including the police firing that killed 14.

“Today’s one-to-one meeting with Ashokda has really marked a turning point in Bengal politics,” the Trinamul Congress chief said at the joint news conference.

This was after Ghosh had declared, as he emerged from the 4 pm talks at the Bloc headquarters, that “Mamata is not only Trinamul’s leader but our leader, too”.

Ghosh promised that at the May 24 meeting, no party need “hesitate while articulating views on any issue relating to Nandigram”. Mamata immediately explained that this included the March 14 killings and her party’s demand for punishment to those responsible for the carnage.

The Bloc secretary said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had assured him that decisions at the meeting, to be taken through a consensus, would be carried out.

Ghosh said he had asked Biman Bose to call a front meeting to endorse the date and venue, and that the Left Front chairman “has welcomed our efforts at peace talks”.

“I will request both Bose and the chief minister to be present…. The presence of the parties’ leaderships would lend seriousness.”

But CPM state secretary Bose said from Purulia that his party would decide for itself whom to send. “One party cannot dictate to another who should attend the meeting.”

Asked if she would come, Mamata said: “I shall decide that after consulting my party’s leaders.’’

The meeting with Amar had been impromptu, though. Bumping into him in Parliament on Wednesday, she had invited him over for a meal of boiled rice and machher jhol the next afternoon, which they probably spent discussing the presidential elections.

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