Sunday, April 29, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Panja meets PM, Advani
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 28
Trinamool Congress leader and former Union Minister Ajit Kumar Panja today met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and expressed his willingness to join the PM’s campaign for the May 10 Assembly elections in West Bengal.

Earlier in the day, Mr Panja met Union Home Minister L.K. Advani. Even though the 30-minute parley between Mr Advani and Mr Panja in the Home Ministry’s North Block was described as a meeting between “two friends” during which the latter briefed the former about the political situation in West Bengal, sources said the meeting was aimed at sending political signals that BJP were keeping all its options open.

While there are speculations that Mr Panja is very eager to part company with Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, but the fact is that BJP high command is in no hurry to split the nine Lok Sabha MP-strong party from West Bengal, and would prefer to wait for the outcome of the May 10 assembly elections in the state. The BJP and the Prime Minister think that while it is politically beneficial at this juncture to project Trinamool Congress’s weaknesses, but it is better to wait for the final outcome of the assembly elections.

Even otherwise, the Trinamool Congress has yet not written either to President K.R. Naryanan or to Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi of its decision to leave the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Sources said the former Railway Minister was keeping all her options open and she might come back to the NDA in case she was unable to manage a majority in the assembly elections.

In her campaign speeches, Ms Banerjee is neither attacking the NDA government nor Mr Vajpayee, which is an indication enough of her future strategy. Sources said Ms Banerjee was keeping her communication channels with Mr Vajpayee intact and a decision to rejoin the NDA would depend on the final outcome of the assembly elections.

The meeting between Mr Advani and Mr Panja was in full knowledge of the Prime Minister, sources said, adding that since the NDA was under no threat at the moment, a decision on the Trinamool Congress would be taken only after the elections.Back

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