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Pranab talks tough to party on alliance

Calcutta, March 21: Mamata Banerjee sitting by him, Pranab Mukherjee today sent out a stern message to Congress workers that the party would not baulk at disciplining anyone found dishonouring the poll pact with the Trinamul Congress.

“With Sonia Gandhi’s approval, Congress has struck an alliance with Trinamul and that has to be respected and taken forward as people of our state want the adjustment to be successful in order to oust the ruling CPM,” the Bengal PCC chief said after talks with Mamata at his residence.

“I would like to assert that if any of our party leaders or workers acts against the interests of the Congress-Trinamul alliance, disciplinary action will be taken against him or her.” The “disciplinary action” could amount to suspension from the party for six months, he said.

“If the offence is committed by a panchayat leader, the district Congress leadership will take action. At the Assembly and Lok Sabha levels, the PCC president is authorised to initiate action.”

The foreign minister said there could be differences of opinion within any party, which could be aired while talks were on. “But after a decision is taken, it will have to be obeyed by every party leader and worker.”

Mukherjee’s tough talk was interpreted as a warning to Congress leaders who had gone public with their criticism of the pact. Reports of resentment among the rank and file had also reached the Congress office.

A section of the Congress said today’s statement would caution Congress leaders Deepa Das Munshi, Abdul Mannan and Shankar Singh that their comments would not be taken lightly.

Deepa, the Raiganj candidate, had termed the alliance “a surrender at Mamata’s feet”. Mannan dubbed it a “raw deal” in which “unwinnable” seats were given to the Congress.

Singh was working against the alliance in Krishnagar, Tapas Pal, the Trinamul candidate for the seat, is believed to have told Mamata.

Mukherjee said he had been moved to see Mamata’s flock rallying for him during his three-day Jangipur campaign. The Congress needed to reciprocate the gesture, he said.

“I was overwhelmed to find hundreds of Trinamul supporters carrying flags and festoons backing me. This has to be done by both parties.”

On his way back to Calcutta today, he had been requested by Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Trinamul’s Barasat candidate, to get out of the car and wave at party supporters, he said.

“I blessed Kakoli and want this gesture in all the 42 Lok Sabha seats,” he said, adding both parties would instruct their workers to display the other’s symbol in their seats.

Mukherjee said it would be a good idea to have Sonia and Mamata campaigning together. Mamata said “such an opportunity (the alliance) may not happen again”.

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