The tiff between the two UPA allies —the Congress and the Trinamool Congress — is apparently moving fast towards another flashpoint.
TMC boss Mamata Banerjee is accusing the Congress, especially the party’s state unit, of playing the CPI(M)’s dirty tricks — blocking roads and railways in protest against Indira Bhawan, a government guesthouse, being renamed Nazrul Bhawan.
Indira Bhawan is a two-storied bungalow that was named after Indira Gandhi after she used it for some time in the early 1970s during a Congress convention. Later, the late Jyoti Basu, former West Bengal chief minister, used to live in that house.
“The Congress is engaged in dirty politics. They have joined hands with the CPI(M),” Banerjee fumed on Tuesday. Responded state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharjee: “How can Congress workers remain quiet when the state government is trying to wipe out the name of Indira Gandhi?”All these allegations and counter-allegations, however, are part of a long, bitter-sweet fight between the largest and the second largest UPA constituents on several issues —ranging from the Teesta water treaty with Bangladesh to the demand of keeping the lokayuktas outside of the lokpal bill.
But Banerjee made it very clear on Tuesday that she was not yet ready for an all-out war against the Congress. “I have never said any wrong things about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi.”
The Congress is in no mood to snap the ties, either. “There is no bitterness in our ties. There can be two opinions on any issue, but it’s not appropriate to tar the difference of opinion as a rift,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.
The reason: Apart from having 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha, Banerjee’s party is set to increase its tally from six to nine in April in Rajya Sabha, where the UPA is in a minority.
But the Congress hopes to emerge as the kingmaker after the Uttar Pradesh elections.
“If we become the deciding factor in government formation, we can get new allies at the Centre and reduce our dependence on Trinamool,” said a Congress central minister. SP and BSP have 22 and 21 members, respectively, in the Lok Sabha.
Banerjee, too, is crunching numbers.
“If there is a mid-term poll, our party will gain more seats as recent trends show. With more seats, we will be a more important ally in the Centre,” a senior Trinamool leader close to Banerjee said.
For now, the Congress central leadership is trying its best to downplay the differences. Law minister Salman Khurshid also denied that Banerjee was being a “difficult customer”.
He said, “Her politics is politics of passion. She has great conviction. She is a very determined person. When you have someone of that nature, you need some technique to communicate better."