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18 Feb 2017

Focus on Delhi, not Bengal: CM tells Cong

Mamata in Calcutta on Friday. Telegraph picture
TT, Calcutta, Feb. 17: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today asked the Congress to focus on the Centre in the "interests of the country", seemingly offering the party the lead role in an anti-BJP alliance of Opposition forces, before asserting that the BJP would not come to power again.
The chief minister advised the Congress to focus its energies on the Centre, rather than "eyeing" Bengal, and blamed the party for making way for the BJP.
"The Congress was in power at the Centre for long. They should keep their focus on Delhi in the interests of the country, instead of eyeing Bengal," she said at a Calcutta Municipal Corporation event this afternoon.
The Trinamul chief was in the middle of lambasting the Bengal Opposition for the alleged obstructions they keep putting up on the road to development, when she offered her advice to the Congress.
Unlike the CPM, which Mamata dismissed as a "lost case" in her criticism, she was not scathing in her attacks today on the Congress, which sources in her party attributed to significantly improved ties with the central leadership in the wake of demonetisation.
Since November, Mamata and her party have participated in meetings, political programmes and news conferences alongside Rahul Gandhi and his party in New Delhi. The state unit of the Congress, however, continues to be relentless in its attack on Trinamul and the state government.
"Only because of its (Congress) own mistakes, by which it weakened itself, was the BJP able to come to power at the Centre," said Mamata.
"That has happened once. It will not happen again. Preparations are on," she added, in what sources in her party said was a reference to her attempts to stitch together an alliance of anti-BJP parties ahead of the Lok Sabha polls of 2019.
Earlier in her address, while criticising demonetisation and its impact on the economy, Mamata quoted former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "I am a layman, not an expert in economics. But even someone like Dr Manmohan Singh has called it an 'organised loot'.... You cannot question his knowledge of economics, at least," she said.
A senior Trinamul leader said the chief minister's remarks were a clear indication of her willingness to let the Congress play the lead role in the anti-BJP alliance of "like-minded" political forces from across the country.
"Though her idea initially was to set up a federal front that would be of non-BJP and non-Congress parties, she later realised that the Congress needed to be on board for such a platform to be effective," he said.
According to him, the relations with the top leadership of the Congress are no longer as strained as they were last summer, when the Congress entered its electoral pact with the Left to fight Trinamul in Bengal.
"Besides, she is in the habit of offering advice to political opponents," he added, referring to Mamata's counsel to the BJP in the same address.
Asserting that the people had already decided to throw the BJP out of power and that it was on the verge of losing the ongoing Assembly elections, Mamata said the party should first get its own house in order before trying to unsettle others.

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