India: Mamata Banerjee appears at Lalgarh rally

[Mamata Banerjee is the leader of the Trinamool Congress, a bourgeois party which has its strongest base in West Bengal.  Banerjee is the Railway Minister of the central (national) government. She is more independent of the ruling CPI (Marxist) than other West Bengal government officials, and has at times shown a willingness to work with Maoist-affiliated groups such as the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities in Lalgarh, especially since the government is losing credibility and its “Operation Green Hunt” has faced growing opposition and criticism.-ed]

Times of India, August 19, 2010

Mamata ‘proud’ of Lalgarh rally

KOLKATA: Apologies are not for Mamata Banerjee. The Trinamool Congress chief on Wednesday stuck to her controversial remarks on Maoist leader Azad’s “murder” and said she was “proud” of her Lalgarh visit.

Undaunted by criticism for her alleged ‘pro-Maoist stand’ and the fact that the knives will be out for her in Parliament, the railway minister hinted she was willing to mediate with the Maoists. “If anybody wants to talk to us, we can give our opinion,” she said, just before leaving for Delhi to attend Parliament. She has stayed away from the monsoon session since the Lalgarh rally on August 9.

Asked about Maoist leader Kishanji’s statement that the rebels had no problem if she was among the mediators, Mamata said: “I have noticed the Maoist statement in media reports, but I don’t want to comment on it till I talk to the Centre. Let me cross-check all the details.”

She pointed out that the issue of talks concerned a “different central ministry” and argued that her stand on discussions with Maoists was not at variance with the UPA government. “In their Independence Day speeches, the President and the Prime Minister also spoke on the same lines,” Mamata pointed out. “If the rebels respond to the Prime Minister’s offer for talks, it is good for the country. I believe all problems can be solved through talks.”

She wondered if leaders of other political parties would rather like to witness the “bloodbath” going on in different parts of the country.

Mamata did not appear the least apologetic over the Lalgarh meeting or describing Azad’s death as a “murder.” She appeared confident of facing the likely criticisms from CPM and BJP members in Parliament on Thursday. “Whatever I said in Lalgarh, I did as the Trinamool Congress chief. I am proud that I visited Lalgarh and I will go back again,” she said. “We will have to fight for the people.”

Asked specifically about her comment on Azad, she said: “I stick to it.” She advised leaders of other political parties to visit Lalgarh, too.

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