Sending a cautionary signal to its alliance partner the Trinamool Congress, West Bengal Pradesh Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee said that while leading the alliance, the Trinamool should also give the Congress its due respect.

“If it becomes a one-party affair, then controversy and conflict will become inevitable — our partner should remember that united we stand and divided we fall,” Mr. Mukherjee told a gathering of his partymen at a ‘chintan bhaithak’ in Nadia district.

He said no party will be able to ascend to power in West Bengal without the co-operation of the Congress. He remarked that the party may have lost strength, but not its importance. In this context he mentioned that in the northern parts of the State, the Congress had emerged as the only reliable opposition force as manifested in every form of election in recent times in these areas.

He however regretted that the party had not been able to woo back the leaders who had deserted the Congress to join Mamata Banerjee’s party in 1998. “Over the last 11 years, we have not been able to bring them back to our fold,” he said.

Hoping that the alliance between the Trinamool and the Congress will continue till the West Bengal Assembly elections in 2011, Mr. Mukherjee said it would be a “historic blunder” to fritter away the opportunity that now lies before the coalition by making either any rash decision or move.

It may be mentioned here that while the Trinamool and the Congress tied an electoral knot prior to the Lok Sabha polls, with a seat sharing agreement and joint campaigning, the alliance has not been an easy one, coming under strain now and again over seat sharing or even choosing a mayor (as in the Siliguri Municipal elections).

Often, the Congress leaders at the helm had a trying time in taking along the grassroots workers who bristle at what they see as a domination by the Trinamool.