Trinamool Stakes Claim, Mamata Elected Legislature Party Leader

Kolkata, May 16 (IANS) The Trinamool Congress Sunday formally staked claim to form a new government in West Bengal with Mamata Banerjee as chief minister, after she was unanimously elected its legislature party leader in the first meeting of the newly elected party members.

A delegation of senior Trinamool Congress leaders headed by newly chosen deputy leader Partha Chatterjee went to the Raj Bhavan and handed over to Governor M.K. Narayanan a letter signed by all the 184 Trinamool lawmakers proclaiming Banerjee as its legislature party leader.

Banerjee's appointment as the state's first woman chief minister is now only days away.

Chatterjee, accompanied by union Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy, union Minister of State for Tourism Sultan Ahmed and state Trinamool president Subrata Buxi, went to Raj Bhavan and held an hour-long meeting with Narayanan.

"We have informed the governor that the Trinamool legislators have unanimously elected Banerjee as leader. The letter has been signed by all 184 Trinamool MLAs," said Chatterjee.

"Now it is for the governor to invite her to from her government," he said.

Earlier, Banerjee was unanimously elected leader of the Trinamool legislature party amid loud cheers by slogan-shouting supporters.

The newly-elected lawmakers also chose Chatterjee, leader of the opposition in the outgoing assembly, as the deputy leader of the legislature party and Sovandeb Chattopadhyay the chief whip.

Banerjee dedicated the historic victory over the 34-year-old Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led rule to the "Maa Mati Manush" (mother, land and people) of Bengal.

A large number of people and supporters thronged Maharashtra Nivas to witness the historic event.

"Mamata Banerjee Zindabad" and "Maa, Mati, Manush Zindabad" rent the air, while the Trinamool workers also took a dig at the beleaguered Left Front with slogans of "Didi tumi korle ki/CPI-M khabe ki" (Didi what have you done/ How will CPI-M survive now).

Several party workers broke down as they heard the news of Banerjee being elected Trinamool legislative party leader.

"I still can't believe that our dream has come true. We are very happy," said 55-year old Sujit Patra who switched from the Congress to the Trinamool in 1998.

Trinamool was formed after Banerjee broke ranks with Congress dubbing it the B-team of the Marxists.

The Congress' West Bengal unit has also officially extended its full support to the Trinamool Congress, which is scheduled to form the next government within a few days.

Thanking the Congress for its support, the Trinamool Congress supremo said she will invite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to her swearing-in ceremony.

Talking to reporters after the first meeting of the newly-elected Congress legislators, state Congress spokesman Omprakash Mishra said: "Today we have given an official letter from West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee to Trinamool Congress stating our full support to the new government which will be formed by Trinamool Congress. We have vowed our full support to the new government."

"A Congress delegation led by state Congress president Manas Bhunia will meet the governor and extend their official support to the yet to be formed Trinamool government," he said.

The Trinamool-Congress alliance bagged 227 of the 294 seats in the state assembly, with the Trinamool alone getting 184.

Banerjee, who had earlier declared that she would be sworn-in would be at the sprawling Brigade Parade Ground if the Trinamool won the election, Sunday said it was not possible "due to political and technical reasons".

She announced that the Trinamool will hold a victory rally July 21 at the Brigade Parade ground.

Banerjee declared her cabinet will be a small one, but added that she might expand her ministry later.

"I have earlier said that I prefer a small ministry. But there can be an expansion once I go through the administrative rules and government files and regulations. I will try to include people from all sections of the society in my cabinet," she said.


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Title: Trinamool Stakes Claim, Mamata Elected Legislature Party Leader

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