The Trinamool Congress has entered into a secret understanding with the BJP in Bengal, and therefore, the Congress can never tie up with such a party, Union rural development minister and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said in Kolkata on Tuesday.
The statement indicated this might eventually turn out to be one of the poll planks of the Congress in Bengal in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls designed to erode Mamata Banerjee’s support base in the Muslim community.
While referring to the Howrah Lok Sabha bypoll earlier this year, where BJP withdrew its candidate at the last moment, Ramesh said that many believe that this gave the Trinamool candidate the edge in a contest that was supposed to be a close one.
“We cannot align with a political party which ensures withdrawal of the BJP candidate by entering into an understanding with the party and wins a seat,” said Jairam Ramesh at Bidhan Bhawan, the Congress headquarters in Bengal.
The Union minister also pointed out that the Trinamool Congress has never given a clear statement that it won’t go with the BJP in a pre-poll or post poll alliance.
“Communal forces are not the only ones that are associated with the RSS.
Those who meet BJP leaders, form an understanding, and never gives any clear signal that they will never go with the BJP, or the RSS, are also communal,” remarked Ramesh.
Trinamool Congress leaders in Bengal were quick to react and slam Ramesh for his comments. “This reminds me of an old saying, grapes are sour,” said Madan Mitra, state transport minister and Trinamool Congress leader.
“I will not comment on our party policy which has already been made clear by Mamata Banerjee. But I want to say that in Howrah, the Congress used five lakh loud speakers and campaigned that Trinamool had an alliance with the BJP.
Still our candidate won by a huge margin, and the people are with us.
By making such comments, Ramesh is insulting the people. He sees Ram everywhere as he carries it in his name,” added Mitra.
Over the past few months, BJP leaders such as Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi publicly praised Mamata Banerjee. Rajnath had supported her demands for a financial bailout package that was refused by the UPA.
Just a day ago, Rajnath also commented in Kolkata that all former NDA partners are welcome.
Trinamool Congress was the partner of the NDA government at the Centre between 1999 and early 2001.
In the Howrah by poll, Trinamool Congress candidate and former footballer Prasun Banerjee won by a margin of 26,955 votes defeating the CPI(M) candidate. BJP, which got over 35,000 votes in 2009, withdrew its candidate Asim Ghosh at the last moment.
The Left Front and Congress, at that time, alleged that the BJP had entered into an understanding with the Trinamool, and added that without the BJP’s help, the Trinamool candidate would have found the turf extremely difficult.
Recently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hinted at the possibility of a re-alliance with the Trinamool Congress, which was ruled out by the latter.
Political circles in Bengal latched on to Ramesh’s statement as a significant one. Some thought, the move could be aimed at denting Mamata’s popularity among the Muslims of Bengal.
Muslims, who account for nearly 30% of Bengal’s population, was one of the key factors behind the Trinamool Congress’s success in one election after another.
Mamata left the UPA II gover nment in September 2012. Since then, she has been attacking her former ally in strong words. On Monday, she announced she would lead a mega dharna in New Delhi with nearly one crore people to protest against the Centre’s “step-motherly attitude” towards Bengal.