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A day after ensuring Trinamool Congress's support for UPA nominee in the Presidential polls and its likely support for the Vice-Presidential candidate, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday took it upon himself to signal a new chapter of friendship with the hitherto belligerent ally. The PM showered praise on the Mamata Banerjee government's "achievements" in tackling extremism in the Maoist-affected areas and offered Central assistance to West Bengal's projects for peace and development.
Speaking at length with TMC's deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Sukhendu Shekhar Roy at the high-powered lunch hosted by Sonia Gandhi for the UPA allies, Singh reportedly offered to visit the troubled areas in the state to "lay the foundation stone" of any developmental project Mamata's government might conceive for the Junglemahal region, Roy said.
Roy, along with party MP
K D Singh, had turned up for the lunch as Mamata had earlier excused herself from this event, citing her busy schedule.
From the lunch, the TMC MPs took the message back to Mamata that the Congress and the UPA government were willing to let bygones be bygones. "The PM said that he had got reports that earlier the panchayat and block development offices were not functioning well in the Junglemahal area due to extremism, but ever since the new government took over, things been working well," Roy said. "He also said that the TMC and the Congress have had a long relationship and this friendship will continue," he added. The PM reportedly told Roy that other states should follow "the West Bengal model" of development and peace in Maoist-affected areas.
In the earlier days of UPA-II, it was Pranab Mukherjee who mediated between the Congress and the TMC, but as Mamata's equation with Mukherjee went from bad to worse on the question of financial package for debt-ridden Bengal, the PM took up the role of attending to her grievances. The TMC's coming on board on the issue of support to Mukherjee is being seen as Singh's success as a deft alliance manager.