West Bengal minister dials, SMSs Mamata for peace talks

Friday, January 14, 2011

KOLKATA - In a fresh peace overture to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, a senior minister of West Bengal’s Left Front government Friday made telephone calls and sent SMSs to her urging that she meet Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee over the rising political violence.

Housing Minister Goutam Deb, who sent the SMSs Friday after a failed bid to call up Banerjee Thursday night, said the two leaders and Congress heavyweight Pranab Mukherjee should deliberate on ways to rein in the activists of their respective parties.

“If the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee and Pranab Mukherjee hold a meeting and issue an appeal to their respective party workers to abjure violence, peace can be restored,” Deb told mediapersons here.

“Otherwise, it is not possible for police alone to completely stop political clashes, many of which are taking place in remote parts of districts. After all there are 38,000 villages, and it is not possible to ensure policing of all villages at the same time,” said Deb, central committee member of the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M). Deb has been playing an increasingly pro-active role in recent times to arrest the ruling front’s sliding electoral fortunes.

He said it was the responsibility of the leadership of all parties to keep their workers in check.

Referring to the CPI-M state secretariat meeting Thursday, Deb said: “We have discussed the issue threadbare and decided to send a stern message to all our workers to desist from violence. We have made it very clear that the party will not stand by them if they create trouble. Police will take whatever action is required.”

Deb said he had tried to contact Banerjee on five of her phone numbers after getting the go-ahead from the chief minister and state CPI-M secretary Biman Bose.

“But I could not reach her.”

On Friday morning, Deb sent a text message to Banerjee that read: “I am sure that you are in heavy mind in view of the growing violence, perpetuated by different quarters in the state. I would like to talk to you with a proposal to make a break on this episode of violence.”

The politically volatile state has seen an escalation of violence with rival parties trying to capture political turf through violent means. Several hundred political activists have died in clashes since the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

With the assembly elections slated to be held in a few months, there is widespread fear of the situation deteriorating as the Trinamool Congress-led opposition is mounting a formidable challenge to the CPI-M-led Left Front that has ruled the state since 1977.

Such is the animosity between the two, that the Trinamool has a stated policy of its leaders - union ministers included - boycotting functions where Left Front ministers are also scheduled to attend.

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