Conditional allegiance

Print edition : September 11, 1999

MAMATA BANERJEE, the founder of the Trinamul Congress, says she is happy with the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government and expects it to return to power. She told Frontline that the Trinamul Congress wanted a "friend ly" government at the Centre which would honour the Bengal Package the Vajpayee government had announced, investigate economic "irregularities" committed by the Left Front Government in West Bengal and send Central teams to oversee the law and order situ ation in the State. She said: "The Trinamul will forge ties with whichever party is ready to fight the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The removal of the CPI(M)-led government in West Bengal is our ultimate aim. To fulfil this objective, the Trinamul will join the government at the Centre if it is headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee."

RAJEEV BHATT

Mamata Banerjee said that her party had declined to join the government in 1998 because it had sought the people's mandate only to provide external support to the government. In this election, she said, the party sought a mandate to join the government. Although the manifesto of the Trinamul Congress promises a stable government under Vajpayee's leadership, it does not seek to bring in legislation that will ensure a full term for a government, as suggested by other National Democratic Alliance (NDA) par tners.

She reiterated that the BJP was not "untouchable"; however, she pointed out that her party had not entered an alliance with it but had merely made seat adjustments."Some say that the BJP is a communal party that demolished the Babri Masjid. When the Elec tion Commission has recognised the party and the people have voted for it, how can it be untouchable? If the BJP is guilty of demolishing the Babri Masjid, so is the Congress, for at that time the Narashimha Rao Government was in power at the Centre. The Left parties cannot afford to call the BJP communal since in 1989 they had joined hands with it against the Congress," she said. She believes that the minorities are not worried about their security under a Vajpayee-led government because there were no communal riots during its 13-month tenure.

The manifesto of the Trinamul Congress has praised Vajpayee for the way in which he handled the BJP's alliance partners and ran the government. However, it is silent on Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin, a key issue in the NDA campaign. Mamata Banerjee said: "To keep the issue out of our manifesto is our party's decision and one should not read too much into it. Our decision is final. Even in the event of a hung Parliament, Trinamul will not desert the BJP and join any other political formation that may req uire our support to form a government."

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