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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, July 21, 2012
After months of estrangement, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee snapped electoral ties with the Congress in West Bengal on Saturday, but said her party would remain with the ruling Congress-led UPA at the Centre.  “In Delhi, we are a part of the alliance and will remain so as long we are given respect, but in Bengal, we will go it alone,” the West Bengal chief minister said at the party’s annual “martyr’s day” rally in the city.

State Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya accepted her “challenge”. In Delhi, the Congress in-charge for Bengal, Shakeel Ahmed, said, “Banerjee has not said anything which strains the alliance. She has not said anything objectionable. We had fought even the civic body elections in the state separately some time back.”

The trigger for Banerjee’s decision appeared to be her failure to get the Centre to give debt-ridden Bengal a three-year moratorium on interest payment on loans. 

“If they (Centre) don’t give us the moratorium, we won’t pay the interest. We know how to get even,” she said.

Banerjee said if the Centre did not accede, all Trinamool MPs and MLAs would march to Delhi and ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh why the former Left Front government was allowed to borrow recklessly and saddle the state with a debt of R2.03 lakh crore. “While our earnings are R22,000 crore, we have to shell out R25,000 crore as interest,” she added.

Trinamool’s first test standing alone would be the panchayat elections, which the CM said would be held after the puja festival (October).

As allies, Trinamool and Congress had swept the Left Front out of power in the 2011 assembly polls. Trinamool has 186 MLAs and the Congress 42 in the 294-member assembly.

Meanwhile, BJP welcomed Banerjee’s decision and urged her to withdraw support to the central government. BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said she should ensure early Lok Sabha elections.