The rift between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, West Bengal's ruling parties, widened further on Sunday, with the Congress central leadership asking the state unit to decide if it wants to retain the alliance for the 2013 panchayat polls.
"The central leadership will not interfere in this decision-making process. The decision will be taken solely by the state Congress," said Shakil Ahmed, Congress general secretary in charge of West Bengal.
Ahmed was speaking at the Panchayati Raj conference convened by the state Congress on Sunday.
Speaking at the conference, senior party leader Jairam Ramesh countered Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee’s recent message to the Congress to decide whether it wanted to continue the alliance with her party.
The Union minister for rural development said the Congress had not taken VRS (voluntary retirement scheme) and would continue to speak its mind on the state’s affairs.
"Congress is a political party and not an NGO. There is no question of us taking (political) sanyas," Ramesh said amid cheers from party workers who thronged the venue, Netaji Indoor Stadium, in large numbers.
On Friday, chief minister Banerjee had served an ultimatum to the Congress asking it to "decide whether you want to stay with us or not" after the youth Congress took out a protest rally in the city against alleged attacks on party workers by Trinamool activists.
"As long as there is coordination between the state and the central governments it will be good for both the Centre and the state. Congress doesn’t need any advice from others. We know our duties and responsibilities both as ruling party and as opposition party," Ramesh said.
State Congress Pradip Bhattacharya asked the Trinamool to refrain from "attacking the Congress unnecessarily".
"We too can hit back with a bang. Both governments should run on mutual cooperation," he said.