The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Patil ok, party pariah
Pratibha and Buddhadeb

Calcutta, July 2: The Left will sup with Pratibha Patil but it is shy of being caught in the company of her party.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was in for a surprise today when he told Left Front legislators that she would meet them along with Congress MLAs in the Assembly on July 13 to seek votes in the president poll.

Several Left MLAs, including some CPM members, expressed strong reservations about the joint meeting.

“We may be supporting the UPA candidate out of national political compulsions. But it will send a wrong message to our supporters if we sit together with the Congress members to listen to her,’’ the RSP’s Tapan Hore said.

Civil defence minister and CPI leader Srikumar Mukherjee and some CPM members, including minister Kanti Ganguly, echoed the view. “It’s better to meet her separately to avoid the confusion,’’ Ganguly told Bhattacharjee.

The misgivings were not on display when the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury and the CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta signed the nomination papers of Pratibha, proposing her name for the poll. The papers were signed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, too.

The chief minister, however, did not share the sentiments of his comrades. “We are supporting the Congress and its candidate in Delhi. Why should you feel uncomfortable about meeting her along with Congress legislators here'’’ he asked the front MLAs.

The issue will now be discussed by the Left Front and the core committee of the state cabinet, said Syed Mohammad Masih, the front’s chief whip.

The Congress said it would follow the high command’s advice on a joint meeting when Pratibha comes to Calcutta.

But the chief minister did succeed in finding consensus on another front. Bhattacharjee requested the Left MLAs not to air their views in public on special economic zones and a proposed chemical hub.

“We may have differences on the chemical hub and SEZs. But don’t allow the Opposition to exploit our differences,’’ a participant quoted Bhattacharjee as saying.

Food minister and Forward Bloc leader Naren De then went into a huddle with water resources minister Nandagopal Bhattacharya and PWD minister Kshiti Goswami.

Goswami later said they would not criticise the government in the House.


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