The simmering tensions within the UPA in West Bengal became apparent during Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi’s whirlwind Bengal tour when he said his party expected to be shown respect by its alliance partner Trinamool Congress.
“The prestige of the Congress is a pre-requisite for any alliance,” he told a gathering of minority community leaders in Kolkata’s Muslim-dominated Metiabruz area.
On Monay, Trinamool chief and Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee had called Gandhi a “bird of passage” at a meeting in north Bengal. Her party is still relatively weak in north Bengal, where the Congress is still a force to reckon with. Trinamool leaders have been criss-crossing the region trying to establish Banerjee’s writ in the region.
“The Congress has shown respect to Trinamool by making seven of its MPs ministers,” Gandhi said. The meeting was held behind closed doors, but his speech, over a microphone, was clearly audible to media persons outside.
On this visit, just nine days after his first rally in Kolkata, Gandhi targeted the youth and the minorities. His programme covers Visva Bharati in Santiniketan, Tagore’s university town with which his family has ties going back to his great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, and a few other areas in south Bengal, including two known TMC strongholds.
“He spoke of our party’s prestige. He said we are giving respect and expect the same from our alliance partner in the state,” said Abdul Khalek Mollah, Congress legislator from Metiabruz.
At the Metiabruz rally, when someone in the crowd asked about reservations for Muslims, Gandhi said, “The condition of Muslims is not good and it is the UPA government that highlighted that fact through the Sachar Committee report and spoke of reservation.”
Earlier during an interaction session with the students of Visva Bharati, he deflected a pointed question by saying becoming Prime Minister is not the only “job” in the world. “There are many things to do for the nation rather than to be a Prime Minister.”