Tuesday, October 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Mamata plans front sans BJP
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 2 — Even though Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has rejected the resignations of Union Railways Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and her party colleague Ajit Panja, the firebrand leader from West Bengal is playing for bigger stakes in her home state.

Realising that ultimately she has to give up her ministerial assignment in the Vajpayee government in the run-up to the assembly elections in West Bengal scheduled to be held by June next year, Ms Banerjee believes it is best to quit now.

The political stakes are indeed high for her in West Bengal. She has to decide on the kind of pre-poll alliances she would like to knit together in her bid to deal a severe blow to the CPM.

The Trinamool Congress might not emerge as a potent force on its own steam in the 294-member Assembly. The Congress is wooing her no end realising that without her backing their fate is as good as sealed in West Bengal.

Ms Banerjee has necessarily to put on her thinking cap and decide early about severing her connections with the BJP as she is losing out on the minority Muslim votes constituting nearly 24 per cent of West Bengal’s population.

She has already alienated the Urdu speaking Muslims in the state by having a truck with the BJP though it is anybody’s guess if a worthwhile percentage of the Bengali speaking Muslims are supporting the Trinamool Congress. She is acutely aware that she cannot make a dent in the Left bastion of West Bengal if the minorities and weaker sections do not back her party.

Her connections with the saffron brigade at the Centre is one thing but hobnobbing with the BJP in West Bengal is having an adverse impact on her party. It has been an extremely worrisome factor for the Trinamool Congress chief.

She is using the steep hike in the prices of petroleum products like diesel and kerosene as a lever to steady her popularity graph in West Bengal which has been on the decline over the last six months. Another sore point is that Mr Vajpayee has not accommodated the Trinamool Congress in the September 30 Cabinet expansion-cum-reshuffle. She wanted at least one of her party colleagues inducted in the Union Council of Ministers. Sources in Trinamool Congress said Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has suggested to the Prime Minister that he should accept the resignation of Ms Banerjee and Mr Panja from the Union Council of Ministers.

If the Prime Minister forwards the resignation of the Trinamool Congress leaders to the President for acceptance, it will send wrong signals of cracks developing in the disparate NDA in the run-up to assembly elections in five states in the first half of the next year.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said Mr Vajpayee would make all efforts to keep the Trinamool Congress in the NDA fold. Despite these efforts if Ms Banerjee decides to break free and go her way because of her political compulsions in West Bengal, well so be it. The BJP leadership is seized of the political goings on in West Bengal and will not like to summarily burn its bridges with the Trinamool Congress.

Trinamool Congress leaders said Ms Banerjee is not keen on presenting the railway Budget next year as that might further complicate matters for her in West Bengal. Besides, her party’s relations with the BJP unit in West Bengal has always been turbulent.

Ms Banerjee is setting the stage for a coming together of like-minded parties in West Bengal albeit minus the BJP. She is of the opinion that the Trinamool Congress-Congress -Saifuddin Choudhry combine can be a formidable grouping against the CPM in West Bengal. Thus there are ample signs that the all too brief Trinamool Congress-BJP honeymoon is coming to an end soon.


Basu ridicules Mamata’s decision

CALCUTTA, Oct 2 (PTI) — West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu today sought to belittle the protest resignations of Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and another Trinamool Congress Minister Ajit Panja from the Vajpayee government saying that she was a party to the Centre’s decision to increase the prices of petroleum products.

“It was a unanimous Cabinet decision... Banerjee was present there. Prime Minister has said it,” Mr Basu said here.

Asked about the possibility of the Trinamool Congress leader coming closer to the Congress, he said “I do not bother about who joins the Congress, the BJP or the Muslim League”.

Flaying the Vajpayee Government for the increase in the prices of petroleum products, the Chief Minister said his party had already organised protest demonstrations against the hike and would “launch a bigger movement after the ‘Puja’ festival”.

Mr Basu said he had already written to the Prime Minister opposing the petro price increase. State Finance Minister Ashim Dasgupta, he said, would shortly go to Delhi and talk to the Union Finance Minister on the issue.

The Chief Minister said the poor would be most hard hit by the increase in the price of kerosene. Transport operators would also launch a movement against the hike, he said.

CHENNAI (UNI): The Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) will organise state-wide protest demonstrations in the state on October 11, demanding a rollback of the price hike on petroleum products, the TNCC President, Mr E.V.K. Ilangovan, said on Monday.

He said the protest was also against the state government, which had welcomed the price hike. He criticised Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi for welcoming the price hike.


Partial roll-back offered

NEW DELHI, Oct 2 (PTI) — The Vajpayee government tonight rushed its emissary Sudhendhu Kulkarni, an OSD in the PMO, with an offer of partial rollback of petro products price hike after the Trinamool Congress said it had scaled down the demand for total rollback but wanted some relief for the common people.

After a meeting Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had with Home Minister L.K. Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes, BJP sources indicated the government was willing to consider a marginal rollback of the prices but did not quantify it.

They said the offer would be discussed in detail by Mr Kulkarni with Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee who resigned over the issue of the price hike and threatened to pull out of the NDA.

Mr Kulkarni had gone to Calcutta with Mr Fernandes soon after Ms Banerjee had faxed her resignation to Mr Vajpayee on Saturday last and returned here yesterday.


No tie-up with Cong: TC

CALCUTTA, Oct 2 (PTI) — The Trinamool Congress today ruled out any tie-up with the Congress, saying it still considered the party as the ‘B team of the CPM’.

“Under no circumstances are we going to forge an alliance with the Congress which we consider as the B team of the CPM”, Trinamool spokesman Sudip Bandyopadhyay told PTI here.

Alleging that the Congress was being ‘remote controlled’ by CPM General Secretary Harkishen Singh Surjit, he said, “By going with such a party, we will only strengthen the CPM”.

Mr Bandyopadhyay’s reaction comes a day after senior Congress leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi hinted at the emergence of a third front in West Bengal sans the CPM and the BJP under the leadership of Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee.

Speaking in a similar vein, Trinamool policy-making body chairman Pankaj Banerjee ridiculed the Congress, saying “Like a drowning man, it is trying to clutch at any straw. But at times, even the straw moves further”.

Asked to react to Mr Dasmunshi’s comments, Mr Banerjee said “You ask the Congress. We don’t know what they (Congress) want to do. They have not consulted us before saying this”.

Mr Banerjee answered in the negative when asked if the two parties had held any discussions at the official level, and said he was ‘not aware’ of any unofficial parleys.Back


Naidu to discuss hike with Centre

SANGAREDDY, Oct 2 (PTI) — Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu today assured at a public meeting that he would write to the Centre to reconsider its decision on hike of petroleum products.

Mr Naidu, who was here to launch a total literacy mission programme had to face a vociferous audience, mostly women, who demanded rollback of power tariff, kerosene and cooking gas prices.

The Chief Minister reiterated government’s commitment to the welfare of women and achieving total literacy.

Efforts were on to make Andhra Pradesh a model state by taking up a massive literacy drive to educate 50 lakh illiterates in the coming five years, Mr Naidu said.

The state’s focus would be on imparting education to womenfolk, he said and mentioned the amount being spent to develop the local area which falls under Medak district.

Earlier, state ministers K. Srihari (Primary Education) and K. Ramachandra Rao (Higher Education) also spoke amidst several interruptions from the women who demanded roll-back in power tariff hike, kerosene and cooking gas prices. Back

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |