A day after Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee virtually pulled the plug on an INDIA alliance in Bengal, pushing the grand old party into damage control mode, her party has blamed state Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowhdury for the alliance not working out.
Derek O’Brien, Trinamool’s parliamentary party leader in Rajya Sabha and its chief spokesperson, has said Mr Chowdhury had repeatedly spoken out against the bloc. “He is the reason for the alliance not working out in West Bengal,” he told the media in Delhi.
“After the general elections, if the Congress does its job and defeats the BJP on a substantial number of seats, the Trinamool Congress will very much be a part of the front that believes and fights for the Constitution,” Mr O’Brien added.
Trinamool sources have told NDTV that Mr Chowdhury was the “gravedigger” of the INDIA alliance in Bengal. “It is because of him and his daily rant that things have fallen flat. After the Chief Minister’s byte yesterday, they (Congress) are getting into damage control. It is too late now,” a Trinamool source said.
The source added that the Trinamool “was very patient” during the seat-sharing negotiations. “We were gracious enough. But all we saw was delay, delay and delay,” the source said.
In remarks that sent the Congress leadership back to the drawing board, Ms Banerjee yesterday announced that Trinamool would fight solo in Bengal and take a decision on any alliance with the Congress only after the Lok Sabha election.
The Congress has since been in damage control mode, assuring the strained ties would be mended. Senior party leader Jairam Ramesh has said they will find a “solution to the impasse”. Mr Ramesh had yesterday said the Congress “cannot imagine INDIA bloc without Mamataji”.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, whose Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra entered Bengal today, said the INDIA bloc will fight injustice. “I am happy to have come to West Bengal. We have come here to listen to you and stand with you. BJP-RSS are spreading hatred, violence and injustice. So, INDIA formation is going to fight anyay (injustice) together,” he said.
Ms Banerjee’s remarks on the alliance had come after talks on sharing seats hit a roadblock. According to reports, the Trinamool was offering two seats to the Congress in Bengal, but the latter wanted at least 10.
Matters reached a tipping point when Mr Chowdhury, also the Congress’s leader in the Lok Sabha, called the Trinamool chief an “opportunist” leader and said the Congress is capable of contesting polls on its own.
Despite the Trinamool and the Congress leadership showing a united front at INDIA meetings, Mr Chowdhury lost no opportunity to target Ms Banerjee at the state level.
His public remarks against the Trinamool supremo recently prompted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to intervene. “Mamata Banerjee is very close to me and our party. Sometimes our leaders say something, their leaders say something, and it goes on. It’s a natural thing. Such comments won’t matter and these are not things that are going to disrupt things,” Mr Gandhi had earlier said.
Trinamool’s hard bargaining in seat-sharing must be seen as a common push by regional forces, including AAP and Samajwadi Party, for a greater role in their strongholds.