The Telegraph
Monday , September 9 , 2013
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No thanks, Trinamul tells PM
Posturing begins for pole position

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with then Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee at an election meeting in Dum Dum in 2011

Calcutta, Sept 8: “Thanks, Sir. But no thanks.”

The Trinamul Congress today thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for leaving open the possibility of reviving a tie-up before the Lok Sabha elections but made it clear that the party was doing well on its own and was happy to go it alone.

Trinamul’s chief whip in the Rajya Sabha, Derek O’Brien, responded to the Prime Minister’s statement that there were “no permanent friends or enemies” in politics by tweeting: “PM has not ruled out a Congress-@aitmc alliance for the 2014 LS poll. We are doing just great on our own. So thanks, Sir… but no thanks.”

Later in the day, Mukul Roy, the Trinamul all-India general secretary, echoed O’Brien.

Manush ke sathe niye eka besh bhalo aachhi (The people with us, we are quite happy going alone),” Roy told a news conference in Calcutta.

Asked whether Trinamul will consider a post-poll alliance, Roy said: “I have already said whatever I had to say on this matter.”

Yesterday, while responding to a question on the possibility of an alliance with Trinamul, Prime Minister Singh had said: “There are no permanent enemies and friends in politics. I do not rule out alliances.”

The Prime Minister also showered praise on Mamata, despite her pulling out of the UPA-II government last September protesting the Centre’s economic policies. She has since not missed an opportunity to hit back at the Congress-led government.

Trinamul insiders said O’Brien, the party’s face and voice on national news channels, and Roy would not have spoken on the issue without the nod from Mamata.

A section of the party leaders interpreted the Trinamul’s response as an effort to have more bargaining power if the situation requires actual negotiations before or after the Lok Sabha polls.

“It is too early to talk definitively about an alliance and nothing can be ruled out since everything is possible in politics,” a Trinamul leader said. “But Trinamul’s response today makes it abundantly clear that if and when negotiations for an alliance take place, it is Trinamul that will be calling the shots.”

After the break-up with the Congress, Trinamul retained the Howrah Lok Sabha seat in a by-election and, going it alone, had a decisive victory in the recently held panchayat polls.

Trinamul sources said Mamata was treading cautiously and weighing options before making up her mind on the possibility of an alliance.

“There is no doubt that Trinamul is the biggest political force in Bengal now and it appears set to win a larger number of seats in next year’s Lok Sabha elections. It may be difficult for any party to form a government at the Centre without the participation or support of Trinamul. So, Mamatadi is in no hurry to pick her partners,” said a Trinamul MP.

The panchayat results have proved that Trinamul has made inroads into Congress-dominated areas of north Bengal. Trinamul has managed to rock the Congress boat in Malda and North Dinajpur. It is only in Murshidabad that the Congress flag is still flying high.

“It is up to the Congress to decide whether it wants an alliance or not. We are confident of winning around 30 to 35 seats of the 42 in the next parliamentary elections all by ourselves,” said a senior Trinamul leader.

However, junior railway minister Adhir Chowdhury, one of the most vocal critics of the Mamata Banerjee government, refused to read much into the Prime Minister’s comments.

“The Prime Minister spoke as the head of the government and not the political organisation. What he said is the eternal truth in politics. What is new about it? In the past nine years, we had to take help from many parties, including the Left and Trinamul. There is nothing to say as of now,” said Chowdhury.