The simmering tension between the Congress and the Trinamool has turned explosive with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee saying that her alliance partner, who she accuses of working with the CPI-M against her, was free to leave. The Trinamool Youth Congress reinforced that message with a rally in Kolkata today afternoon.
In the rally, Trinamool leaders bluntly asked the Congress to choose its manner of exit from the alliance in West Bengal.
“Some of them (Congress leaders) are saying that the party does not exit from the back door, but the main entrance. We are telling them all doors are open for them to go,” Trinamool Congress Secretary-General Partha Chatterjee said
Ms Banerjee herself did not attend but Trinamool’s top leaders were present in the rally to politically combat an ally who they allege is increasingly hobnobbing with arch rival CPM. Mr Chatterjee today reiterated what his party chief said on Saturday.
“If Congress feels they can go with CPI-M, they can do it. Door is open. We can go alone,” Ms Banerjee had said.
Claiming that the Congress was utilising the image of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for its political survival, Chatterjee, the industry and commerce minister said, “If they have the guts let them face elections without Mamata’s photo and prove that they can win on their own.”
Alleging that Congress and CPM had ganged up against the chief minister to stall development in agriculture and industry in the state initiated by her, Chatterjee said, “Congress must declare clearly whether it will side with the CPM or remain with the Trinamool. We will not tolerate duplicity.”
After the outburst by Ms Banerjee, the Congress high command has reportedly been pushing the state unit to make up with the Trinamool. State Congress leaders, who have described the Trinamool as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s B-team, are yet to offer an olive branch and today’s rally may make this even more difficult.
What could complicate matters further is the Trinamool’s decision to field candidates for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, for which Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has been campaigning hard over the past few months. Trinamool leader Mukul Roy is in Delhi today and is likely to announce the names of the candidates.
Matters reached a flashpoint last week after the Youth Congress held a protest against the West Bengal government’s decision to rename Indira Bhawan, a building named after the former Prime Minister in Kolkata’s Salt Lake area.
The Youth Congress also took on the state government over the issue of paddy prices for farmers. Ms Banerjee hit back and accused its ally of going along with the Marxists even as the Congress’ central leadership sought to play down the differences.
In a sign of further trouble, the student unions of the two allies clashed at a college in North Bengal on Thursday.
The two parties have had an uneasy relationship over the past few months, with the Trinamool blocking key policies of the United Progressive Alliance government like the Pension Bill and the move to increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail. It also took on the Centre over the issue of an increase in petrol prices.
The allies have also been locked in a bitter war of words over the Lokpal Bill after the Trinamool refused to go along with the government in the Rajya Sabha, citing concerns that the Lokayukta or the anti-corruption ombudsman in states being brought in by the Centre was an attack on the country’s federal structure.