West Bengal Chief Minister said here on Saturday that the Trinamool Congress would go it alone in the coming panchayat elections, a decision which raised questions on the future of the party’s relations with its ally, the Congress, in the State.
“Our alliance in Delhi [with the UPA] is there and will be there as long as we get respect. But in West Bengal, the Trinamool will fight the panchayat elections alone,” she said, addressing a rally in the city. The rally is an important event on the party’s calendar, and is held to mark the death of 13 people in police firing on a procession in 1993.
Emphasising that the party had a majority in the Legislative Assembly, Ms. Banerjee said the Trinamool Congress was “not at anyone’s mercy” and “is self-sufficient” in the State.
Criticising the State Congress, she said it feigned that the Trinamool came to power because of it, while “they have come thus far because of us.”
She said the State Congress leadership had no other work other than criticise the Trinamool government on television channels backed by the CPI(M) and added that she would not tolerate this.
Ms. Banerjee has been vocal against the State Congress leadership and has described them as a “non-entity” who are in cahoots with the CPI(M).
At the rally, Ms. Banerjee said the panchayat elections in the State would be advanced and would be held after the Durga Puja festival scheduled in October this year.
Ms. Banerjee urged the people to remove the CPI(M) from the rural bodies where they were still in control.
“We will have to usher in change in the panchayats across the State... There should be no rural bodies under the control of the CPI(M),” she said.
Asking her supporters to be prepared for the panchayat polls, Ms. Banerjee said she would usher in development in the State through the rural bodies which were dysfunctional under the CPI(M).
A huge crowd of Trinamool supporters from different districts descended on the streets braving occasional showers to listen to Ms. Banerjee. A two-storey high podium was erected to enable all to have a view of the speakers.
The rally, held at a busy junction at the heart of the city, caused enormous traffic snarls bringing life to a standstill in many parts through which the party supporters came in a procession.
Unlike the earlier rallies, where she used to denounce the Left Front government, Ms. Banerjee emphasised on her plans for development, which she was unable to implement due to paucity of funds.
She said she was working hard for the people “not as the Chief Minister of the State but as a commoner.”
At least eight people had to be hospitalised as they had fallen ill at the rally.
The Congress leadership in West Bengal said on Saturday that it accepted the challenge thrown by Ms. Banerjee on going it alone in the panchayat polls.
State Congress chief Pradip Bhattacherjee said: “We are least bothered.”
“If she so decides, she can go ahead and fight alone. We have the guts to contest on our own strength. We are prepared to fight alone. We accept the challenge,” Mr. Bhattacharya said.