UPA wobbles, Mamata says Congress colluding with Left (Roundup)

January 3rd, 2012 - 9:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata/New Delhi, Jan 3 (IANS) In an indication of their uneasy ties threatening the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), a fiery West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday accused the Congress of colluding with her arch foes Communists to hurt her Trinamool Congress.

The Congress downplayed the infighting saying that despite some differences, Banerjee’s party continued to be an alliance partner in West Bengal and in the Congress-led central government.

The escalating war between the coalition partners came out in open over the West Bengal government’s proposal to rename a building named after late prime minister Indira Gandhi.

The chief minister wants the Kolkata-based Indira Bhavan - where Gandhi stayed in 1972 - to be after rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.

Reacting to protests over the issue, Banerjee said in Kolkata that the Congress had covertly aligned with the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) against Trinamool workers in West Bengal.

“In West Bengal, the CPI-M and the Congress are working together. Our partymen are being attacked,” said the chief of the Trinamool, the second largest UPA partner with 19 MPs.

In New Delhi, the Congress said “there could be some differences but the fact is we have an alliance with (the Trinamool) in West Bengal and at the centre”.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said while his party “respected poets and musicians, Banerjee should not forget she had worked under (Indira) Gandhi”.

Banerjee hit back, saying Congress workers had launched a vilification campaign against her.

“They are blocking roads and railway tracks daily and abusing me. But I have not uttered anything against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or against Sonia Gandhi.”

The chief minister said the state government would go ahead with the plan to set up “Nazrul academy” in the building housing a museum on the poet.

West Bengal Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya, however, expressed the hope that the state government would not go ahead with the move to rename Indira Bhavan.

“(Otherwise), we shall intensify our agitation statewide.”

The Congress-Trinamool ties have remained uneasy since Banerjee joined the UPA after the 2009 Lok Sabha election.

She has bitterly opposed and blocked some of the key policies and bills of the UPA government, including the anti-corruption Lokpal bill.

Banerjee is also mainly responsible for the central government’s backtracking on the foreign direct investment plan in retail sector after she raised a red flag against the key reform measure.

She has vowed to keep opposing the the Lokayukta provision in the Lokpal legislation which she fears will intrude into the autonomy of the states.

She said her opposition to UPA policies was on issues “which concern common man”. The Trinmaool chief has also spoken out on inflation and food prices.

Asked about her opposition to the Teesta water treaty with Bangladesh, when Manmohan Singh was in Dhaka in September, she said the central government had overlooked “our opinion and suggestion” that would have meant more water being released to Bangladesh”. “So we disagreed with that.”

Banerjee joined the Congress after taking to politics in the early 1970s. She quit the party in 1997 after accusing it of acting like a “B Team” of the West Bengal Marxists.

Her Trinamool Congress quickly became the main and the most vocal opposition in the state. But it had to wait until 2011 to finally oust the Left Front in West Bengal.

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