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Kulkarni cosying up to Trinamool?

india Updated: Aug 27, 2009 00:16 IST
Saroj Nagi and Srinand Jha

From the member of a Railways committee to an expanded role as Mamata Banerjee's political advisor, erstwhile BJP ideologue Sudheendra Kulkarni is trying to get closer to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief.

But both Banerjee and Kulkarni want to take it slow, apparently.

Given her sensitivities towards the Muslim vote bank, Banerjee is reluctant to induct Kulkarni in the party in a rush.

"He (Kulkarni) has not sought entry and there are no plans to induct him in the party," TMC spokesman Sudip Bandopadhyaya said.

For his part, Kulkarni is also hedging his bets by not pledging allegiance to Banerjee.

But Banerjee, who snapped ties with the NDA and is a member of the Congress-led combine at the Centre, did not hesitate to induct Kulkarni into the expert panel of the Railway Ministry in July even though he was then part of the BJP.

“I had worked closely with Mamata Banerjee even during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. She was the railway minister then. She asked me to be on the panel. She wants to make the railways progress and move faster,” Kulkarni told the Hindustan Times.

Given his proximity to industrial houses, Kulkarni is likely to assume an important role in the TMC in the coming months leading up to the 2011 assembly elections in West Bengal.

The panel headed by FICCI secretary general Amit Mitra is expected to have intensive interaction with corporate honchos in the coming months.

The manner of Kulkarni's inclusion in the 16-member Railways committee has been puzzling. The committee - constituted on July 25 - lists names of other members along with their designations.

In between, Kulkarni's name seems to have slipped in —with no designation to go with it.

First signs of Kulkarni's disenchantment with the BJP came late May, following the Lok Sabha results — when he was reported to have held a meeting with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar, seeking a possible entry into his party.

Pawar is understood to have expressed his inability to accommodate Kulkarni in the NCP at that stage.