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HindustanTimes Tue,02 Sep 2014

Mamata keeps backroom negotiations open with Akali and SP

Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, March 12, 2012
First Published: 20:28 IST(12/3/2012) | Last Updated: 20:29 IST(12/3/2012)

Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee may have given Chandigarh and Lucknow a last minute pass, but she is continuing backroom negotiations with both Akali Dal and Samajwadi Party not only for tacit understanding in the Parliament now, but also keeping in mind the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Two senior party leaders, Mukul Roy and Sultan Ahmed who would be representing the party, would carry on the talks.

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On March 11, Mamata Banerjee decided to skip the two ceremonies, despite sending her consent initially, after strong words from Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

Though leaders dubbed the visit as nothing more that extending political courtesy, party insiders said that ‘informal talks’ with Mulayam Singh and Prakash Singh Badal is on the cards against the backdrop of the swearing-in ceremonies.

“This is just a political courtesy which our leader is extending by sending us. She herself wanted to go, but could not owing to pressing engagements in Bengal. One must understand that Mamata Banerjee is a national name and a most sought after personality,” said Sultan Ahmed, union minister of state for tourism, who is scheduled to represent the party in Lucknow on March 15.

Mukul Roy, all India general secretary of the party and second most important leader after Mamata will be present in Chandigarh on March 14.  Apart from holding ‘informal talks with Mulayam Singh and Prakash Singh Badal, Trinamool leaders would also have the opportunity to holds talks with other regional leaders such as Naveen Patnaik and Nitish Kumar who are also invited to Lucknow.

According to senior party leaders, Mamata Banerjee changed her mind at the last moment since she does not want to send a wrong message to her ally, the Congress, at a time when she is expecting a financial bail-out package for her state.

However, she is maintaining backroom negotiations with both Akali Dal and Samajwadi Party. According to sources, the negotiations are to forge an understanding with both parties, which would be fruitful in the long run. The talks began immediately after the results of the Assembly polls were out March 6.

“Primarily, we are looking for a tacit understanding in the Parliament, where we could together protest on issues that disturb the federal structure. The mutual understanding would also benefit us in 2014 Lok Sabha polls,” said a senior Trinamool MP close to Mamata Banerjee.

Senior leaders of the party made it clear that 2014 Lok Sabha polls may see the BJP return to power. They also told HT that Mamata Banerjee thinks Congress is on its way out of power in Delhi.

However, Trinamool leaders feel Mamata has decided to maintain a distance from the BJP because of the Muslim vote share in the state. She would rather bank on BJP allies such as Prakash Singh Badal and Nitish Kumar to serve her interests.

“Another scenario she is preparing for is a probability that both Congress and BJP fail to get the necessary numbers on their own. In such a scenario, Mamata may emerge as the binding force of all regional parties,” said a leader.


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