NEW DELHI, Jan 31: As the Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee ruled out any more than two seats to the Congress in her state in the Lok Sabha elections unless the party decide to part company with the CPM, a senior Congress leader accused the TMC of pelting stones on Rahul Gandhi’s car, a charge the party itself refuted within hours.
Ms Banerjee’s remarks on Wednesday indicated that the troubles for the opposition INDIA bloc was far from being over in West Bengal and in any case the TMC and the CPM, both members of the INDIA bloc, would not to go together under any circumstances.
The Bengal Chief Minister said the Congress had rejected the Trinamool’s offer for two seats during seat-sharing negotiations and now she “won’t give a single seat.” “The CPM has physically attacked me on several occasions in the past. I was mercilessly beaten up. I am alive only because of the blessings of my well-wishers. I can never forgive the Left, I can never forgive the CPM. So those who are with CPM today, they can also be with the BJP. I won’t forgive them,” she told a gathering in Malda.
Incidentally, her remarks came on a day when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra re-entered Bengal after its Bihar leg. “I told congress you don’t have a single MLA in the assembly. We will give you two parliamentary seats and we will make sure your candidate wins. But they want more seats, so I told them I won’t give you a single seat until u leave the company of the Left,” she said.
The CPM has earlier ruled out an alliance with the Trinamool. Back in June, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury had said, “Mamata Banerjee and the CPM will not happen. There will be secular parties along with the Left and the Congress in Bengal which will fight against the BJP and the TMC,” he had said.
Seat-sharing talks between the Trinamool and Congress hit a roadblock a week back when Ms Banerjee announced that her party will contest the Lok Sabha polls alone and any decision on an alliance will be taken after the election.
The Trinamool blamed Congress’s hard bargaining and strong remarks by its state chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury for Ms Banerjee for the situation. Mr Chowdhury had argued that the two seats being offered to the Congress were the party’s strongholds anyway, and said the Congress is equipped to win elections on its own. In a personal attack on the Trinamool supremo, he had called her an “opportunist” leader.
Following Ms Banerjee’s outburst, the Congress leadership swiftly moved into damage control and said it cannot imagine an INDIA bloc without Mamata Banerjee. The Trinamool chief’s remarks today suggest that the issue is nowhere close to being sorted out.
The Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra encountered a snag on Wednesday as his car’s windshield broke during a rally. The incident took place near DS College in Katihar, where the enthusiastic crowd surrounding the vehicle led to the rear windshield breaking. Rahul Gandhi continued the journey atop the vehicle.
Congress has alleged that Rahul Gandhi’s car was pelted with stones after it entered West Bengal’s Malda, which is about 100 km from Katihar in Bihar where the rally was on Tuesday. Despite recent political upheavals in Bihar, the Congress Yatra received an overwhelming response from people yesterday. Party leader Jairam Ramesh, expressing his astonishment in a post on X, highlighted the tremendous welcome the Yatra and Rahul Gandhi received in Bihar.
Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has alleged that in Malda’s Harischandrapur area, unidentified men threw stones at Rahul Gandhi’s convoy. “The rear window pane of the vehicle Rahul Gandhi was travelling in was smashed after being pelted with stones… this is unacceptable,” Mr Chowdhury said.
Soon afterwards, the Congress contradicted Mr Chowdhury’s statement clarifying it as a “wrong news.” “A huge crowd had come to meet Rahul ji in Malda, West Bengal. In this crowd, a woman suddenly came in front of Rahul ji’s car to meet him, due to which the brakes were suddenly applied. Then the glass of the car broke due to the rope used in the security circle. People’s leader Rahul Gandhi is fighting for justice against the injustice being done to the people. The public is with them, the public is keeping them safe,” the Congress wrote on its X handle.
The Trinamool is just one among the regional forces locked in a tug-of-war with the Congress over seat-sharing. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has said they are preparing to contest all 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state. In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has announced 16 candidates amid seat-sharing talks. Mr Yadav has stressed that he is doing what is best for the party and a clearance from Congress is not needed.
The exit of the Nitish Kumar-led JDU from INDIA bloc and its allegation that the Congress is trying to hijack the alliance has only pushed the grand old party into a corner as it preps for the big fight against the BJP. Bihar politics underwent a seismic shift in dynamics after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, an INDIA bloc partner until recently, switched allegiances to join the BJP-led NDA. This move followed his departure from the INDIA coalition, raising concerns about low public support for the Yatra.