Baharampur (WB), Feb 1 (PTI) The CPI(M) on Thursday joined the Congress' 'Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra' in West Bengal Murshidabad district, stating it would welcome if the TMC exited the opposition bloc INDIA, in contradiction to the grand old party's optimism of securing a seat-sharing agreement with the ruling party in the state.
However, for the TMC there was no let-up in its criticism of the CPI(M) and Congress, both its partners in the opposition bloc INDIA at the national level, as Banerjee on Thursday asserted that "TMC will win Delhi and bring all regional parties under one umbrella after the upcoming Lok Sabha elections".
As efforts by the Congress to mollify TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee continued, the grand old party's general secretary Jairam Ramesh remained optimistic about clinching a "mutually acceptable" seat-sharing arrangement with the TMC in West Bengal, despite the ruling party's reluctance to concede seats to the Congress in the state.
The Rahul Gandhi-led yatra on Thursday rolled into Murshidabad district, once a bastion of the Congress, where top CPI(M) leaders including politburo member and state secretary Mohammed Salim joined the yatra in an open-hood jeep, with Gandhi seen waving to bystanders and reciprocating to their greetings.
Gandhi was later seen speaking to Salim and other senior CPI(M) leaders.
Leaders of the West Bengal Congress unit, which has an alliance with the CPI(M)-led Left Front in the state, were seen welcoming the Left leaders.
While addressing a government programme in neighbouring Nadia district, Banerjee claimed that while her party was eager to form an alliance with the Congress for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the state, it was the grand old party that rejected her proposal.
"We wanted an alliance, but the Congress did not agree. They have joined forces with the CPI(M) to assist the BJP in the elections... We are the ones who can fight the BJP in the country," she added.
Exuding confidence that BJP will lose the elections, Banerjee said that after the polls, the TMC along with other regional parties would decide on the strategy to form the government at the Centre.
"If people are with us, then we promise, we will win Delhi (Lok Sabha elections). After the elections, we will do this (form the government) by taking all the regional parties together," she said.
Joining the yatra at Baharampur in Murshidabad district, the CPI(M) leader claimed that the country is at present divided between justice and injustice.
"We have come to join this fight against injustice," Salim said.
On the opposition bloc INDIA, of which the Congress, Left Front and TMC are constituents, he said a lot of people board a train from the originating station, but one cannot say who will continue to be part of the fight against the BJP and who deboard en route.
"Mamata Banerjee now wants to get down from the train and we welcome that," the CPI(M) leader said.
His remarks come in the backdrop of Banerjee's announcement last week that her party would contest all the 42 Lok Sabha seats alone in the state, delivering a severe blow to the opposition bloc INDIA in the state.
The Congress, which has pulled all the stops to pacify Banerjee, however, hoped that the seat-sharing deal with the TMC would be sealed soon.
"In an alliance, there's a give-and-take dynamic. We are hopeful of reaching a consensus on a joint seat-sharing formula in the state that satisfies all parties involved. Mamata ji has expressed her commitment to the INDIA bloc and we welcome this stance," Ramesh said.
The TMC, however, slammed the Congress for hobnobbing with the Left, which it had fought in the state since Independence.
"Rahul Gandhi's grandmother Indira Gandhi was badmouthed by the CPI(M) in the seventies and eighties. In the late eighties, the CPI(M) after the Bofors issue coined slogans against him (Rajiv Gandhi) and joined hands with the BJP to oust him.
"The CPI(M) knows that if it contests elections alone in 42 seats, its deposits will be forfeited," TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.
The yatra will move to Birbhum before entering neighbouring Jharkhand, where political turmoil is ongoing following the resignation of Hemant Soren from the post of chief minister and his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case.
The first phase of the yatra in West Bengal concluded on Monday, as it stepped into Bihar from Islampur.
It re-entered West Bengal on Wednesday through Malda district in the northern part of the state.
The 'Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra', which started in Manipur on January 14, is scheduled to cover 6,713 km in 67 days, while passing through 110 districts in 15 states, before culminating in Mumbai on March 20. PTI AMR SCH PNT ACD