Daggers drawn in Bengal Trinamool-Congress alliance (West Bengal Newsletter)

Kolkata, Jan 8 (IANS) The honeymoon was long over. But has the marriage of Congress and Trinamool Congress reached a point of no return? This is the question doing the rounds in the political circles of West Bengal after an infuriated Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked alliance partner Congress to walk out of the combine.

Banerjee has earlier too issued various threats to the centre on many issues, but this seems to be her angriest outburst against the Congress since coming to power in the state eight months ago after decimating the mighty Left after 34 years rule.

The roots of the problem can be traced to various political events over the last few months that have strained ties between Congress and Trinamool, pushing the alliance towards a dead end.

Banerjee has criticized various policies of the UPA and forced the union government to shelve major policies and diplomatic treaties, thus causing embarrassment to the Congress both at national and international arena.

The political storm brewing in the state since last week over the issue of renaming the Indira Bhawan – which briefly served as the residence of late prime minister Indira Gandhi – paved the way for protests and political mudslinging between the two partners over issues of mismanagement of agriculture and violence by Trinamool activists in various educational institutions across the state.

Upset at rampant protests and agitations by the Congress, Banerjee dubbed the Congress the ‘B-team’ of the Marxists and charged them with colluding with the Left to embarrass the state government.

Matters worsened as state cabinet minister and Congress leader Manas Bhuniya blamed mismanagement of the state agriculture as the main reason behind the plight of farmers and a spate of farmer suicides. Congress MP Deepa Dasmunsi joined the bandwagon to attack Trinamool, accusing it of being the ‘real B-team’ of the Left as it was constantly playing spoilsport to various policies of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The enraged Trinamool leadership asked Bhuniya and the Congress leadership to leave the state ministry and challenged them to seek re-election claiming they had won the assembly polls by using the name of Banerjee.

Although the Congress high command tried to downplay the differences, its state unit launched a fresh agitation against the incident of students affiliated to Trinamool beating up a college principal over the issue of student elections.

Trinamool has 19 members in the Lok Sabha and six in the Rajya Sabha. The Congress leadership held out an olive branch by hoping for a ‘convergence of views’ with the Trinamool, as Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed asked the Bengal unit to settle all outstanding issues with the Trinamool.

But Banerjee was unmoved and spewed venom at the alliance partner.

‘If the Congress wants to go with CPI-M they can go, the door is open, but if Congress and CPI-M work together in the state they won’t get Trinamool beside them. We can do (run the state government) it alone,’ Banerjee said here Saturday.

The fiery comments came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said problems with Congress allies were ‘temporary’ and would be overcome with ‘will’ and ‘determination’.

Banerjee has been trying to prop up a populist image of herself by her frequent confrontations with the center on various issues that ‘clash with the interests of common people’. She also rolled out plans to fight the Uttar Pradesh and Manipur assembly polls and claimed it as a reason for the Congress attacking her.

Although the Congress high command put up a brave face by stating that ‘in a coalition arrangement, disagreements do occur. Disagreements are valued in a coalition. These issues ought to be sorted out’, the state Congress was in no mood to buckle under.

State party president Pradip Bhattacharjee retorted to Banerjee’s challenge, saying, ‘We will stay in the ministry. We are not bound to follow her (Banerjee’s) orders and fulfill her wishes.’

Political observers feel the tiffs will become uglier in the coming days, with the Uttar Pradesh elections becoming the deciding factor about the fate of the alliance.