Congress warns Mamata Banerjee about deserting UPA

Ranaghat (West Bengal), May 27 (IANS) Without taking the name of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Union Finance Minister and West Bengal state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee said it would be a mistake if ‘someone else’ treads the path of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) by withdrawing support to the UPA government.

Referring to the Prakash Karat-led CPI-M and three other Left parties withdrawing support to UPA-1 two years back on the India-US nuclear deal issue, Mukherjee said in an obvious reference to Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee: ‘If someone else treads the same mistaken path, then I will say with all modesty, ‘please don’t do it’. Congress will continue to rule the centre.’

‘If we (the Congress) could run the central government with 147 MPs (between 2004 and 2009) we can do it comfortably with 207 MPs (the party’s strength in the present Lok Sabha),’ Mukherjee said while addressing a public meeting in this Nadia district town ahead of the May 30 municipal polls in the state.

The senior Congress leader’s tough talk capped days of vitriolic exchanges between the Congress and the Trinamool, the second largest partner in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) dispensation, after the two parties failed to clinch an electoral understanding in the West Bengal municipal polls.

Banerjee in her election meetings has been accusing the Congress of being hand-in-glove with the CPI-M. On Wednesday, she targeted the union finance minister, saying the Communists had the habit of falling at the feet of leaders like L.K. Advani and Mukherjee whenever they were in trouble.

Banerjee was irked by Mukherjee’s strong criticism of her party in earlier election rallies.

However, on Thursday, Mukherjee seemed aggression personified in countering Banerjee.

‘I am one of the senior most parliamentarians. I am not a nine-day wonder. I have four decades of experience in parliamentary democracy. I have good relations with everybody. Despite political differences, personal relations will be there in parliamentary democracy. And you cannot say you won’t talk to opposition parties,’ he said, in an oblique reference to Banerjee’s stand of total non-cooperation with the CPI-M-led Left Front government in West Bengal.

Claiming the Trinamool managed to increase its strength in the Lok Sabha from one to 19 following its electoral alliance with his party in the 2009 polls, Mukherjee said: ‘Let the people know whether the Trinamool did well on its own or because of Congress support.’

‘Let us find this out in this election. Why is someone (read Banerjee) getting so angry now? Let the results come out. We will see whether the Congress votes increase or not,’ he said.

Citing an example to buttress his claim that the Congress has been fully accommodating towards its coalition partner, Mukherjee said the Land Acquisition Bill has been on hold because the Trinamool had reservations about it.

‘They told us that this land acquisition bill will create political problems for them. They said that they want to think on the bill. We said, ok you think on it, we will wait. We are still waiting…This is called coalition dharma. Where there is a mutual respect for each and every coalition partner,’ he said.