Kolkata: Amid an internal discord over seat-sharing within the INDIA bloc, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee on Monday batted for the idea of regional leaders spearheading the fight against the BJP in specific regions, suggesting that Congress independently contest 300 Lok Sabha seats.
Banerjee, the chief minister, also accused the CPI(M) of striving to control the opposition grouping’s agenda, underscoring that no one confronts the BJP as directly as she does.
“I insist that particular regions should be left to regional parties. They (Congress) can fight on 300 (Lok Sabha) seats alone, and I will help them. I will not contest those seats. But, they are adamant about doing what they want," she said at an ‘all-faith harmony rally’ in Kolkata, which coincided with the consecration ceremony at the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Banerjee’s comments followed her assertion during a recent internal party meeting that the TMC is prepared to independently contest all 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal if not given “due importance”.
"I have the power to take on the BJP and fight against it. But, some people don't want to listen to us about seat-sharing. If you don't want to fight the BJP, then at least don't give away seats to it," she said.
Without making a mention of the Congress, Banerjee also criticised the party for delaying seat-sharing discussions in the state.
The TMC boss expressed her unwillingness to accept the Left Front led by the CPI(M) controlling the agenda of the INDIA bloc meetings.
"I suggested the name INDIA during a meeting of the opposition bloc. But whenever I attend the coalition’s meetings, I find the Left trying to gain control. This is not acceptable. I cannot agree with those with whom I had fought for 34 years," she said.
"Despite such insults, I have adjusted and attended the INDIA bloc meetings," remarked Banerjee.
In an apparent reference to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi being stopped in Assam from visiting the birthplace of Vaishnav saint Srimant Sankardeva, she said, "Just going to the temple isn't enough."
She highlighted her proactive stance against the saffron camp, stating, "How many politicians today took on the BJP head-on? Somebody went to one temple and thought it was sufficient, but it was not. I am the only one who visited the temple, gurudwara, church, and mosque. When the Babri Masjid issue (demolition) happened, and violence was taking place, I was on the streets."
Banerjee’s comments drew sharp reactions from both the Congress and the CPI(M).
“We cannot comment on the whims and fancies of the TMC leadership. Let them do whatever they feel like,” Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.
CPI(M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty refuted the charge that his party was trying to control the agenda of the bloc's meetings as ‘baseless’.
"It was the BJP that was against the INDIA bloc; now she has also become opposed to the alliance," said CPI(M) West Bengal secretary Mohammed Salim during a press conference.
Salim said the fight is between "the communal and the communists".
The CPI(M)-led Left Front, Congress and TMC are part of the 28-party opposition bloc.
However, in West Bengal, the CPI(M) and Congress have aligned against the TMC and BJP.
Fissures within the INDIA bloc have come to the fore, particularly between its key allies, Congress and TMC, regarding seat-sharing for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, in West Bengal.
The TMC's offer of two seats based on Congress' 2019 Lok Sabha election performance was deemed insufficient by the latter, escalating tension between the two parties.
Congress’ Chowdhury, a vocal TMC critic, has maintained that it wouldn't "beg" for seats from Bengal’s ruling party.
In the 2019 elections, the TMC bagged 22 seats, Congress won two, and the BJP secured 18 seats in the state.
The Trinamool Congress had decided to abstain from a recent INDIA bloc virtual meeting, and emphasised the necessity for Congress to recognise its limitations in Bengal and permit the TMC to spearhead the state's political battle.