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Sonia, Rahul ditch Mamata

Sonia, Rahul ditch Mamata

Author: Saugar Sengupta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 10, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/175155/Sonia-Rahul-ditch-Mamata.html

Saturday's summer heat pierced through the record 42 degrees barrier in Kolkata. The Congress-Trinamool Congress newfound equation, however, started freezing with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi suddenly dropping the city from their campaign itinerary.

The two leaders who were supposed to campaign for Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee give her the slip with Sonia preferring to pay a visit to a stronger ally in ailing Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee sources said.

The Trinamool leadership was surprised but quickly absorbed the setback to put up a brave front. While publicly they attached "little importance" to the issue "being raked up unnecessarily by the media", party insiders said they felt "cheated" and would talk of it after the elections.

"For Mamata Banerjee it (not coming of Ms Gandhi) hardly matters because her voters are her real allies," said senior leader Madan Mitra. "There was hope among the people who wanted to see both Gandhi and Banerjee on the same platform. However this will make no difference," a Trinamool MLA said.

Another party leader said, "some alliance partners are backstabbing us like they did in 2001. They took our help in earlier rounds and in constituencies where our support mattered. But now they are backtracking where our party is stronger."

Bengal Opposition leader Partho Chattopadhyay, however, felt last-minute changes were not new during election campaigns. He however sidestepped the question as to why both the leaders chose to avoid Banerjee's meetings in Kolkata.

Inside sources in both the parties confirmed if AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi's mollycoddling the Left led his alliance partner Trinamool Congress to "sabotage" the Congress in Jangipur, Murshidabad and Behrampore, Sonia's not coming to Kolkata was a sweet revenge.

Experts, however suggested Sonia's decision to skip Kolkata was a ploy to appease the Left for a future alliance in the Centre. A jubilant section of PCC leaders led by seniors like Shankar Singh and Abdul Mannan felt "encouraged" saying the "Trinamool has sustainedly sabotaged us in Raiganj, Murshidabad and Bankura."

Mamata, who has been facing a stiff challenge in her constituency, however refused to comment at this juncture.

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