They may have a common goal to end CPM’s more than 30-year rule in West Bengal, but relations between the Congress and Trinamool Congress, key UPA partners, have been on a see-saw ride.
Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee’s recent jibes at Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi are the latest in the series of verbal exchanges between the two parties.
While Banerjee has made it clear that she is the dominant force in the alliance, the Congress has now begun to assert itself, reaffirming that the party is not going to bow down under pressure.
“An alliance should be on the basis of honour. This is the essential philosophy of Congress wherever it is going for tie-up,” spokesman Manish Tewari said.
The assertion follows Gandhi’s blunt message to Banerjee that “we are not going to bow our heads”.
“Mamataji is a senior leader. I respect her. She has worked with my father. We want to continue our relations with her to oust the Left. But we want a partnership of respect and dignity. We will not do so if we are not respected...” Gandhi said in Kolkata on September 16.
His foray into Bengal has apparently not gone down well with Banerjee who has asked her cadre to assess the impact of his visit on their support base.
Though Banerjee did not openly speak against the visit, she took a snipe at Gandhi, likening him to a “seasonal flower” and a “cuckoo”.
“There are people who come like a koel (cuckoo) before an election and disappear after chirping ‘kuhu kuhu’ once the spring is over. But I am unlike them because I have been consistent in my anti-CPM movement,” she said at Birbhum’s Nanoor on September 19.
But K. Keshava Rao, the Congress leader in-charge of Bengal, doesn’t think the jibe was directed at Gandhi. “But if one infers it to be a reference to Rahulji, I will not react to such a childish remark,” he said.
Rao said Gandhi’s self-respect remark should be read in political parlance and taken as political idiom. “It refers to a healthy alliance particularly in seat sharing...” he said.
The party also took on Banerjee for projecting herself as an icon of simplicity who wears slippers and does not do politics from “bed of gold”. “We respect her simplicity and we also expect that she respects the simplicity of other people in the polity,” Tewari said.