Kolkata: Capping months of strain in ties with Congress, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Saturday announced her party would go it alone in West Bengal elections while remaining in UPA while Congress responded by declaring it is game for her challenge.
"We don`t want to survive on anyone`s mercy. In Delhi, we are part of the alliance and will remain so as long we are given respect. But in Bengal, we will go it alone," Banerjee told a a huge gathering at the party`s annual "martyr`s day" rally here.
The immediate test would be the panchayat election which Banerjee said would be held after the puja festival.
Banerjee, the West Bengal chief minister, also raked up the issue of her government`s demand for a three-year moratorium on interest payments and said she would wait for some time for the Centre to respond to the state`s demand.
"We will wait patiently for some time for the Centre`s response to our demand. We will not pay any interest," she said.
She said if it was not forthcoming, then all MPs and MLAs of Trinamool Congress, along with the legislators of GJM, would march to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister for fulfilment of the demands.
"We will ask the Prime Minister why the former Left Front government was allowed to borrow such a huge amount leading to a massive debt of Rs 2.03 lakh crore," she said.
"While our earnings are Rs 22,000 crore, we have to shell out Rs 25,000 crore as interest payments which is a legacy of the previous Left Front government`s reckless governance," she said.
"If needed, we will give a call for Delhi chalo. If the state is deprived, then Bengal has the courage to realise its dues. We are not seeking alms or a special package," she said.
In an obvious reference to a section of state Congress leaders, she said her party wanted Congress to stay in the government here but would not tolerate any "slander by a section of them in league with CPI-M".
Reacting to her statement, PCC chief Pradip Bhattacharya said the challenge thrown by her was accepted.
"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."
"I do not know why she said this at this moment. If TMC
had not aligned with Congress in the last assembly polls, it would not have come to power in the state," Bhattacharya said.
Terming the TC chief`s announcement as a "betrayal", he said the people had voted Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance to power after 34 years of Left Front rule.
Asked whether Congress would remain in the Mamata Banerjee-led government, he said "future will say. Right now we cannot say anything in this regard.
"The issue has been discussed in our state party earlier. We have left the matter to the party high command. Till high command asks us, we will stay," he said.
On Banerjee`s complaint about the Centre`s alleged neglect of the state`s financial demands including a three-year moratorium on interest payment, Bhattacharya said the Centre was providing the state all assistance.