Two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked his Left allies not to “politicise people’s misery”, Congress president Sonia Gandhi slammed the Left for the Nandigram violence and not doing enough to control price rise in West Bengal.
The CPM reacted promptly, accusing her party of being part of a grand alliance with the RSS, foreign funded NGOs and extremists in Nandigram.
The shadow-boxing between the Left and the UPA — who have been in an alliance at the Centre for nearly four years — has intensified in the run up to the West Bengal panchayat elections in May.
Sonia, more critical of the CPM than ever before, declared at a rally in Behrampore: “I am with the people of Nandigram who faced sorrow and hardship, especially with the women, children and farmers in their hour of difficulty.”
The violence in Nandigram, arising out of a government move to acquire farmland for industry, had led to police firing which killed 14 people in March 2007.
Addressing a crowd which contained a fair sprinkling of Muslims, Sonia even questioned the CPM commitment to their welfare. “Sachar Committee findings indicate that in the past 30 years, nothing has been done by the Marxist government here for the development of minorities,” she said.
While highlighting the UPA government's numerous welfare initiatives, she claimed that law and order in the state had gone out of control.
"If there is no law and order and the law keepers do not have any role to play in maintaining, then the entire state machinery will collapse."
Gandhi said Congressmen in the state had often complained of "atrocities and torture," and added: "In a democracy there is no place for political violence. This should not happen and there should not be any discrimination in maintaining law and order."
In Malda, Gandhi said the Congress had tied-up with secular forces in Delhi to keep opportunists out of power but that did not mean the Congress would succumb to pressures.
"It is very easy to criticise the Centre, but the critics should also discharge their responsibilities," she noted, hitting out at the CPM for its agitation against inflation.
"The State government instead of blaming the Centre should curb black marketeering and ensure distribution of essential commodities through the public distribution system," she added.
CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury reacted sharply.
"Congress should explain how it was part of a grand alliance with Trinamool Congress, Maoists, foreign-funded NGOs and the RSS-BJP elements in Nandigram," he said.
"As the Congress president what else can she do except keep accusing us. These people have not been able to provide a viable alternative to the people of West Bengal who have voted for us, election after election, for 30 years," Yechury said."