"Can't Be Friends With BJP in Bengal And...": Mamata Banerjee To Congress

Mamata Banerjee lost her temper as Trinamool cadres were accused of violence by rival parties

New Delhi:  West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee template for the opposition in the 2019 elections to put up a united front against the BJP is facing its first challenge. And it is on her home turf. On Wednesday, Ms Banerjee appeared to lose her temper with the Congress and the Left parties that have joined the BJP to accuse Trinamool cadres of violence ahead of panchayat elections.

"We want one to one fight against BJP, because it is a communal party. We believe in that. CPI-M and the Congress also say the same thing. But in Bengal, they are together. They are three brothers here. Does that mean they (Congress and CPI-M) don't consider BJP in Bengal as communal? They should clarify?" Ms Banerjee told reporters as she walked out of her office, seething.

"Congress, rather than fighting (Narendra) Modi and Amit Shah, tied up with the BJP here. They should first answer people how they have joined forces with the BJP overnight here," the Trinamool Congress president said, complaining that the Congress appeared to be on the same side as the BJP in Bengal. "Outside Bengal, they are fighting the BJP. How come is that possible?"

Ms Banerjee had spent several days in Delhi last month to meet opposition leaders to discuss the opposition strategy to stop the BJP's march in the 2019 General elections.

She had, inspired by the success of the Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav tie-up in Uttar Pradesh, suggested that if the opposition were to support a single candidate in a seat, the BJP didn't stand a chance. Ms Banerjee had made this suggestion to the Congress too and word is, Mrs Sonia Gandhi also was open to this idea.

Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president appeared to also back this strategy and recently told reporters that there was no way PM Narendra Modi could return to power if opposition parties agreed to unite.

Ms Banerjee had hoped this understanding would ensure that the two opposition parties do not gang up with the BJP, particularly when it was leading a sustained and according to her, a misleading, campaign that claims people weren't able to file their nomination.

She said the opposition has put up 90,000 candidates for the 58,000-odd panchayat seats.

"The opposition could not file nominations in some seats because they lack people, lack a tight organisation. Moreover, many seats have been reserved for Scheduled castes, tribes and Other Backward Classes. It is difficult to find the right candidates for these seats," she said at the state secretariat Nabanna.

In 2003, the Trinamool Congress had contested only 30,000 of the 58,000 seats. In 2008, her party could put up only 35,000 candidates, she said, to make the point that the number of nominations wasn't as low as it was made out to be.