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Mamata pushes Cong face-off

india Updated: Jan 08, 2012 10:58 IST
HT Correspondents
BJP tries to find a face-saver

Babu Singh Kushwaha, picked up by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh after being sacked for corruption by Mayawati, asked for his membership to be put on hold. The BJP was cornered by political rivals for its doublespeak on corruption after it inducted Kushwaha and another Maya discard.

In a letter to BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, Kushwaha said his party membership should be suspended till he proved his “innocence”. The letter was used by the BJP as a face-saver, though it was seen more as an understanding between the two.

Earlier, Rahul Gandhi attacked the BJP for Kushwaha’s induction. “He approached the Congress and pleaded with us but we refused and said we would not save you. You will be sent to jail,” Gandhi said in Gorakhpur.

Kushwaha accused the Congress and BSP of harassing him for protesting the dilution of the OBC quota by including backward Muslims. His letter seeks to protect the BJP’s anti-graft posture while containing a possible Kushwaha/OBC backlash in the state — a vote bank the BJP needs to counter the Congress.

Door open for Congress to leave: Mamata

Meanwhile, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee told the Congress on Saturday that if it continued to “collude” with the CPI(M), it could quit the government in the state.

“The Congress can leave us if they collude with the CPI(M). The door is open. The Congress won’t get us as an ally if they are hand in glove with the CPI(M) to belittle us. The Trinamool Congress can go it alone,” Banerjee told a press conference at the state secretariat.

In response, state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharjee said, “We are in the government because people want it. We cannot leave the government if anybody demands it suddenly.”

In the 294-seat assembly, the TMC has a strength of 186 that allows it to form a government on its own. The Congress has 42 seats.

“The Congress’ conspiracy against us is clear because we opposed several issues, such as FDI in retail, lokayukta bills in Parliament,” she said.

In Delhi, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi advised all stakeholders within the UPA not to adopt an aggressive posture. “We will be able to solve this problem by discussions," Singhvi added. “Congress is a 125-year-old party. It does not need to fear anybody”.

The two allies have been locked in a bitter fight all week over issues such as the renaming of Indira Bhawan and the paddy farmers' crisis in Bengal. The final straw seems to be an incident in which a college principal was beaten up by TMC supporters in Raiganj in North Bengal on Thursday.

Trinamool supporters had maintained that the principal was acting at the behest of the CPI(M) and refusing students with TMC affiliation to file nomination for the student elections.

The incident attracted severe criticism from all sections of society with the Congress taking the lead. The chief minister slammed the local police for their failure to take prompt action and criticised the officers-in-charge, accusing them of being CPI(M) agents.

Ties between Banerjee and the Congress have been uneasy both at the central and state levels since May 2011, when she was sworn in as CM. While the first point of friction was around Banerjee's demand for more funds, she subsequently locked horns with the Manmohan Singh government on the Teesta water sharing agreement with Bangladesh, FDI in retail and the pension and lokpal bills.