It all began when Chowdhary, who during a discussion on a bill to crack down unregulated schemes and chit funds, launched a direct attack on the West Bengal chief minister and accused her of being complicit in the Saradha scam — much to the delight of BJP legislators.
Although Congress president Rahul Gandhi had attacked Banerjee repeatedly during the 2016 campaign on the same issue — the politics of attempting to stitch an opposition alliance has seen the Congress not attack Banerjee in Delhi on the issue.
On Tuesday night, the Bengal CM had said that the questioning of Sonia’s son-in-law Robert Vadra in the land scam is “nothing but political vendetta ahead of the Lok Sabha polls” and Rahul even walked over, joining a TMC protest in the House.
But Chowdhary, who many in the Congress believe was sidelined by the party’s central leadership last year, appeared not to care. “Several lakhs of people were looted,” he alleged, blaming the Bengal CM.
Responding to Banerjee, Sonia Gandhi said, “We are accusing each other, but we are friends here.”
It was Rajiv Gandhi who had first given Banerjee a Lok Sabha ticket and it was Sonia who had tried to convince her to not leave the Congress in 1997, attempting to soothe relations between Banerjee and Sitaram Kesri at the time.
Banerjee, however, remained livid. On the issue of defections from the Congress to TMC, including Mausam Noor, MP from Maldah, she said, “If Congress MPs want to join the TMC, what can I do?”
An AAP MLA, who was waiting to welcome the mercurial leader to the Opposition’s rally at Jantar Mantar, told News 18, “She was radiating anger. She had also wanted to speak earlier. But since neither the Left nor Banerjee wanted to be seen on the same stage, the proceedings also got delayed.”
Banerjee spelt out her plans during the speech, arguing that she was willing to work with the Congress in the Centre, but was planning to give no quarter to the Congress in Bengal. “If you’re strong in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh — fight there. We will fight where we are strong. Let them try to fight me (in Bengal), I will get all 42 seats,” she said.
Most in the AAP had not expected anyone from the Congress to turn up. So when former union minister Anand Sharma came, many were surprised. Banerjee immediately got up and offered her seat to Sharma — before sitting behind the speaker. Sharma heaped praise on the Bengal CM but she seemed unimpressed.
After the meeting, opposition leaders went to the residence of NCP chief Sharad Pawar for a meeting. A little after 8:30pm, Rahul joined them. At the time, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal had left — only to return a little later, smiling.
Afterwards, Banerjee maintained, “We will do a pre-poll alliance”, while Rahul told News18 that they “hadn’t decided on Bengal and Delhi yet”. He said, “We will cooperate yet compete with each other. In Delhi we will decide later and also Bengal… the broader arrangement is to work together at the national level.”
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