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Mamta decides to end fast
December 29, 2006 00:03 IST
Last Updated: December 29, 2006 01:28 IST
Trinamool Congress chief Mamta Banerjee on Thursday night called off her indefinite hunger strike on the Singur issue following personal appeals by President A P J Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"I am ending the fast because the country's top leaders, including President A P J Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, have requested me to do so," she said in a feeble voice at the stroke of midnight after being on hunger strike for the last 25 days.
Addressing the media and about 300 of her party activists from the dais where she had been on fast protesting "forcible" acquisition of farmland by the West Bengal government for the Tatas' car project, Banerjee said she would now go to a hospital for a check-up.
Banerjee, whose blood pressure has dropped drastically, said she had got a "nice" letter from the prime minister late on Thursday night which appealed to her to end the fast, get medical care and then discuss all the issues she had raised on the Singur issue with West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya.
Banerjee's withdrawal of the fast came shortly after Kalam and Dr Singh separately appealed to her to do so with the President seeking a way out of the stalemate on Singur issue to enable her to call off the hunger strike.
Sending out his appeal to Banerjee, the President told her that "life is precious".
Dr Singh late on Thursday night sent a letter to the Trinamool Congress chief appealing to her to call off the fast and said he had been assured by Bhattacharya that he was ready to discuss all issues Banerjee might like to raise on the Singur issue.
He also expressed "great concern" over Banerjeee's health condition.
Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee too wrote a letter to Banerjee saying her life was "more important" for the cause of the farmers.
Earlier in the day, as Kalam intervened to seek an early resolution in the face of deteriorating health of Banerjee, the West Bengal chief minister made a fresh offer to break the deadlock on the Singur land row.
Following Kalam's telephonic talk with both Dr Singh and Bhattacharya to see that the impasse over land for the Tatas' car project is resolved to enable Banerjee to call off her hunger strike, Bhattacharya sent to her a letter, the contents of which were not disclosed.
Bhattacharya held a high-level meeting at the state Secretariat after the President spoke to him in the morning before sending the letter.
"I have sent another letter the contents of which I will not disclose. Let's hope for the best," the chief minister said.
In the morning in Jalpaiguri, Bhattacharya had reiterated that the state government could not go back on the project.
It was learnt that the chief minister has offered to lift prohibitory orders in Singur area and discuss the allegation of forcible acquisition of land there for the Tata Motors small car project across the table.
Meanwhile, the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist in West Bengal and the Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday welcomed Banerjee's decision to end her hunger strike, and the Left party said it is willing to discuss the Singur issue with the Trinamool Congress chief.
While expressing happiness at Banerjee deciding to call off the fast, BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar accused the Left of "double standards".
He said the Communists took one line in Kolkata and another in New Delhi and if the state government was really interested in resolving the issue, it should shift the project site or provide adequate compensation to those displaced by the Tata automomobile project in Singur.
CPI-M leader Nilotpal Basu welcomed the TC chief's decision to end her 25-day-old fast, but dismissed as an "outlandish drama" Banerjee's hunger strike.
He said the state government was willing to discuss all issues relating to the Singur project with her.
Senior Congress leader Tom Vadakkan said Banerjee's calling off the hunger strike came as a relief and now the Singur issue should be solved through discussions, a stand "our party has always maintained".
He said he was confident that a solution would emerge through dialogue.
Announcing her decision to call off the fast amidst cheers by TC activists, Banerjee said, the "President is the highest authority of the country and the prime minister is the chief executive of the nation and in deference of their wishes, I have decided to end my fast."
Banerjee, however, said her agitation against acquisition of farmland for the Tata Motors project would continue.
"Our agitation would continue under the banner of Krishi Jamee Bachao (Save Farmers' Land) Committee till we achieve our goal," she said.
She also claimed 'moral victory' on the issue saying she has undertaken the fast for a cause and she still stands by that.
Banerjee was later taken to a private nursing home for treatment.
Doctors attending on Banerjee at the private nursing home, where she was taken for treatment, said they are examining any damage to her liver and kidney due to the 25-day fast.
Banerjee looked weak as she climbed down from the dais with the help of aides.
As Banerjee ended her fast, the area around the makeshift dais at the busy Esplanade area in the heart of Kolkata, which has been a hub of frenzied political activities for the last 25 days, became deserted.
Banerjee had started her indefinite hunger strike on December 4 alleging the West Bengal government has been forcibly acquiring multi-crop agricultural land for the Tata Motors' small project at Singur, about 35 km from Kolkata.
Since then, she had been repeatedly urged by different leaders to call off her fast and discuss the matter across the table as Bhattacharya had agreed to hold discussion with her.
West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi visited her during her dharna a number of times with the request her to call off her fast.
The breakthrough came after Kalam spoke to the chief minister on Thursday morning and the prime minister wrote a letter to Banerjee.
Stepping up its campaign on Singur issue, a National Democratic Alliance delegation met Kalam and sought his intervention to save Banerjee whose condition further worsened with her blood pressure dipping and complaints of muscle cramps and pain in the chest and the abdomen.
She remained on respiratory support and her condition was being constantly monitored by a 7-member medical team constituted by her party.
An army medical team was also asked to stand by following a directive from the prime minister on Wednesday that Central authorities extend all medical care to Banerjee.
NDA convener George Fernandes said they requested the President to intervene to save the life of the TC chief.
"The ball is now in the court of (West Bengal Chief Minister) Buddhadeb Bhattacharya," BJP chief Rajnath Singh said after meeting Kalam.