Kolkata/New Delhi: In
an indication that all is not well within the ruling United
Progressive Alliance (UPA), West Bengal Chief Minister and
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee Saturday threw an open
challenge to partner Congress to walk out of the combine.
This is the first time Banerjee has spoken so bitterly and openly
against the Congress after the ties between the two parties --
allies in the central and state governments -- worsened in recent
months over various issues.
"If Congress feels they can go with (the Communist Party of
India-Marxist) CPI-M, they can do it. The door is open. We can do
(run the state government) it alone," Banerjee said in West
The fiery comments came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Friday said problems with Congress allies were "temporary" and
would be overcome with "will" and "determination".
The Congress in New Delhi downplayed the Mamata challenge saying
disagreements were part of coalition politics.
"In a coalition arrangement, disagreements do occur. Disagreements
are valued in a coalition. These issues would be sorted out,"
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters in the
Banerjee, however, minced no words in lashing out at the Congress
accusing it of spreading canards against her party because she
opposed the central government's key policy decisions and blocked
crucial bills, including the anti-corruption Lokpal legislation in
The Trinamool, the second largest constituent of the UPA with 19
MPs in the Lok Sabha and six in the Rajya Sabha, is also mainly
responsible for the central government's backtracking on the
foreign direct investment (FDI) plan in retail sector after
Banerjee raised a red flag against the key reform measure.
"The Congress by colluding with the Marxists is taking out protest
against the state government (because) the Trinamool did not agree
with the decision of FDI in retail, the Lokayukta provision in
Lokpal bill and oil price hike," an angry Banerjee said.
She lashed out at the Congress for not putting the anti-graft
legislation to vote in the Rajya Sabha, which could have been
defeated in the wake of all round opposition.
Banerjee also reminded the Congress of her party's importance in
the UPA saying the Trinamool had the majority to run the state
government and didn't need the Congress support.
However, the Congress right now is hugely dependent on the
Trinamool for the survival of the UPA at the centre.
"The Trinamool on their own strength has fought the Left in the
West Bengal and has come to power. I can still go alone and fight
alone. Nobody can win by conspiring against us," said Banerjee.
She said the Congress was afraid of the Trinamool after her
decision to fight in elections in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur. "That
is why they are so much worried. Nobody can undermine us by
carrying on with such dirty political games."
Asked about the Trinamool chief's remarks that the Congress was
scared of her party, Singhvi at the Delhi presser said: "There is
no question of the 125-year-old all-India party being scared of
anyone or any political challenge."
After Banerjee's outburst, the West Bengal state Congress retorted
that they were not bound to follow her orders and would continue
in the ministry.
State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharjee said: "We will stay
in the ministry, we are not going to leave it. We are there
because of the blessings of the common man. We are not bound to
follow her orders and fulfil her wishes as we are not her
"Congress is not afraid of anybody. It doesn't make any sense that
we will leave the ministry if she wants," said Bhattacharjee.
The escalating war between the coalition partners that has
threatened the UPA was triggered after the West Bengal
government's proposal to rename a building named after late prime
minister Indira Gandhi. The Congress has vehemently opposed the
idea to rename the Kolkata-based Indira Bhavan - where Gandhi
stayed in 1972 - after revolutionary poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.
The BJP, meanwhile, said the doors were open for Banerjee to join
the National Democratic Alliance. "The UPA 2 has been very
arrogant. The fact is that the Congress can neither have a healthy
relationship with the opposition nor with allies," BJP leader
Balbir Punj told reporters, adding "NDA doors were open" for