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West Bengal: Elections 2001


Run up to elections 2001 - a chronological sequence for those who may have missed the unfolding drama

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January 18, 2001: Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee rules out snapping alliance with the BJP for the sake of joining hands with the Congress. "A mahajot (grand alliance) does not mean we have to break the
existing partnerships," she says and adds her party is not averse even to a common manifesto with the BJP in the Assembly elections.

February 16: The Congress high command, under growing pressure from a section of partymen in West Bengal to go in for a mahajot, declares that it would evolve the "best electoral strategy" to defeat the CPI(M), but rules out any truck with the BJP.

Sonia Gandhi's rebuff to protagonists of the party's mahajot with the Trinamool Congress and BJP leaves state party legislators led by Saugata Roy in a fix.

February 25: The Left Front announces a list of 282 candidates for the 294-seat state assembly electrions, dropping four ministers and bringing in 93 new faces to provide a new leadership under Buddhadev Bhattacharjee after the polls. Of the new candidates, 70 are from the CPI-M, 11 from the Forward Bloc, six from the Revolutionary Socialist Party, five from the CPI and one from the RCPI. There were 61 new nominations in the Front during the last elections.

March 3: TMC finalises seat adjustments with the BJP with both parties expressing satisfaction. However, both parties remain silent over the details of seat sharing.

West Bengal Congress chief chief Pranab Mukherjee says his party wants a tie-up with Mamata, but the TMC must dump the "communal BJP".

March 4: Congress splits in West Bengal. Eight party legislators and three AICC members join TMC. The legislators are Saugata Roy, Tapash Roy, Paresh Pal, Tarak Banerjee, Sibdas Mukherjee, Anupam Sen, Devi Sankar Panda and Sheetal Sardar, while the AICC members are Samir Roy, Pranab Basu and Sukendu Shekhar Ray. The legislators had been demanding electoral adjustments with the TMC-BJP combine. Congress remains unruffled.

March 7: In her eagerness to allot tickets to the former Congress legislators, Mamata has her partymen grumbling on the "unfair" allocation of tickets.

TMC announces its list of candidates. Bengali film actress Madhabi Mukherjee to contest against Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. The BJP allotted 39 seats, JMM (Soren) eight, and the Kamatapuri People's Party and Samata Party six seats each.

March 15: TMC pulls out of the NDA following the Tehelka expose.

March 16: TMC's decision brightens the prospects of an electoral alliance with the Congress.

March 17: Mamata rules out return to NDA.

The plenary session of the AICC in Bangalore hails the TMC's withdrawal of support to the NDA. The resolution passed appeals to Mamata to officially infom the President of the party's decision to snap ties with
the NDA for forging an alliance with the Congress in West Bengal.

March 31: Talks of seat sharing between the TMC and Congress remain inconclusive, but both sides confident of a positive outcome.

TMC announces continuation of alliance with BJP in the Calcutta Municpal Corporation. The Trinamool-BJP combine had ended the Left's three-decade dominance in the CMC in June 2000.

April 2: After a week of indecision, the Congress and TMC announce a formal electoral alliance. They, however, fail to reach a consensus on all 294 assembly seats, leaving 18 seats for "further negotiation".

April 3: Despite failing to come to an agreement on the 18 seats Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy expresses "full faith in Mamata".

The TMC turns down any "friendly fight" with the Congress in the 18 Assembly seats.

April 10: Party for Democratic Socialism leader and former CPI(M) member Saifuddin Choudhury beaten up "goons owing allegiance to the ruling CPI(M)" in Burdwan. CPM cadres roughed up Chaudhury while beating up a local PDS leader. PDS general secretary Samir Putatunda describes the attack as an expected fall-out of the Communists' desperation ahead of the elections.

April 12: Election Commission directs private TV channels to restrain their reportage on the campaigns of political parties to facilitate smooth conduct of the polls.

April 13: West Bengal Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee leaves screening panel meeting in New Delhi in a huff only to return after some time. Insiders term it a dispute on certain candidates. Later, Mukherjee
announces the clearance of all the 57 candidates.

April 14: TMC Member of Parliament Ranjit Kumar Panja says the TMC-BJP alliance in the state would have had a smooth sailing had Mamata Banerjee not pulled out of the NDA. Younger brother of Ajit Panja, Ranjit opines "It may be difficult to convince the ordinary voters, if not the enlightened ones, about the logic of the new alliance (with the Congress)."

April 19: Mamata refuses to attach much importance to Ajit Kumar Panja's dissentand describes his support to NDA as a 'personal decision'.

April 20: Ajit Panja asserts he would continue to support the NDA despite Mamata withdrawing support. He also expresses strong opposition to the Trinamool-Congress alliance in West Bengal.

April 28: Ajit Panja meets Home Minister L K Advani and briefs him on his stand following the Trinamool's decision to quit the NDA govt.

He also writes to Lok Sabha Speaker G. M. C. Balayogi for allotment of a seat among NDA members claiming he was not party to the decision or resolution of the Trinamool Congress seeking total withdrawal from the NDA.

April 30: At least 11 persons injured in a clash between CPI (ML) and TMC activists during an election meeting at Chenchura village under Keshpur constituency in Midnapore district.

May 2: Union Home Minister L.K. Advani while addressing a rally in Hooghly district accuses CPI (M) of terrorising opponents.

May 3: During a poll campaign in Bankura L. K. Advani hits out at Mamata Banerjee saying her alliance with the Congress had made Left Front a "more powerful" adversary and that her party would not come to power.

May 7: TMC rubbishes Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's statement (during a rally in Malda) that the party is heading for a split and some of its MPs are likely to join the NDA government at the Centre. Says Ajit Panja stands isolated.

May 8:TMC chief whip in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay rules returning to the NDA and that there is no change in the decision taken by Mamata in this regard.

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