Indira Bhawan renaming: Another Trinamool-Congress tussle looms (West Bengal Newsletter)

January 1st, 2012 - 2:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Kolkata, Jan 1 (IANS) After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conceeded that there are “differences” with alliance partner Trinamool Congress at the centre on certain issues, another tussle between the two parties is imminent with the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government deciding to rename Indira Bhawan, which briefly served as the residence of late prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Banerjee, the Trinamool supremo, had earlier announced that Indira Bhavan in Kolkata’s satellite town Salt Lake would be named Nazrul Bhavan in the honour of the Bengali revolutionary poet. The building will house a museum on the poet, on whom research work would also be conducted.

Although the Congress, a constituent of Bengal’s new alliance government formed just six months ago, has been heavily dependent on the Trinamool to run the government at the Centre, party cadres in the state are protesting the name change.

While Congress leaders have described the decision on renaming the sprawling bungalow, built in 1972 primarily to serve as a guest house for Gandhi for her visits to Kolkata, as Banerjee’s “calculated move” to erase the memories of the late prime minister, the Trinamool Congress has accused the Congress of creating a “needless issue”.

Political observers, however, feel that Banerjee’s decision is a ploy to gain more bargaining power at the centre, showing that her party is no pushover, ahead of the crucial assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh which would be, according to them, very important and a possible game changer.

With the gap between two parties widening on various issues ranging from Teesta water sharing dispute, FDI in retail and now Lokayuktas, Manmohan Singh confirmed the differences Friday, one day after Lokpal Bill fiasco in the Rajya Sabha where Banerjee’s party made a dramatic volte-face after supporting the passage of the bill in the lower house of parliament.

Though the prime minister emphasised on repairing the relationship with the Trinamool, which has 20 members in the Lok Sabha and six in the Rajya Sabha, state Congress leaders indicated that tension between the two parties would intensify if the chief minister does not reconsider her decision of changing the name of Indira Bhawan.

State Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya, who wrote a letter to Banerjee to reconsider her decision, said: “Indira Bhawan is closely associated with the memory of our beloved leader and prime minister Indira Gandhi and sentiments of millions of people are involved with the name and memory of Indiraji.”

“The name of the building should be retained as Indira Bhawan. We cannot stop our activists who hit the streets to protest against the decision,” Bhattacharya said.

The West Bengal Congress has organised a two-day protest across the state. Adhir Chowdhury, a Congress leader from Murshidabad district, hit out at the Trinamool, saying: “The Congress should pull out of the government in Bengal due to the Trinamool’s efforts to push it aside.”

Taking a dig at the Congress following Chowdhury’s outburst, Trinamool Congress leader Firhad Hakim, known to be close to Banerjee, said: “Trinamool will not lose if the Congress pulled out of the government, but if the Trinamool pulled out of the government at the Centre, the Congress would be in trouble.”

“Mamata Banerjee is playing her cards to put more pressures on the Congress to gain more bargaining power at the Centre ahead of the UP poll. There is a possibility of Samajwadi Party (SP) forming the government there with the support of the Congress. Then if, in turn, the SP, which has more MPs than the Trinamool, supports the Congress at the Centre, Banerjee’s power would be reduced,” Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, a political analyst, told IANS.

“So Banerjee is intensifying pressure on the Congress to show that her party is no pushover,” he added.

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