Amid opposition unity talks, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday attacked the Trinamool Congress, alleging that it was fighting elections in Meghalaya to ensure the Bharatiya Janata Party comes to power in the state, drawing a sharp reaction from the Mamata Banerjee-led party.
The remarks by Gandhi at his first election rally in Shillong came against the backdrop of the latest comments by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge that his party was in talks with other opposition parties and would lead an alliance for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections to come to power at the Centre.
Slamming the TMC, Gandhi raised the incidents of "violence and scams" in West Bengal where it is in power. He also took on the BJP, alleging it was like a "class bully" that respects no one as it thinks that it knows everything.
"You know the history of the TMC -- the violence and scams that take place in West Bengal. You are aware of their tradition. They spent a huge amount of money in Goa (polls) and the idea was to help the BJP. That is exactly the idea in Meghalaya. The TMC's idea in Meghalaya is to ensure that the BJP is strengthened and come to power," he claimed.
Assembly elections in Meghalaya are due to be held on February 27.
Senior TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee hit back at Gandhi, saying the "irrelevance and incompetence" of the Congress had put them in a state of delirium.
Abhishek Banerjee, who is the TMC's national general secretary, said the Gandhi scion must revisit the politics of vanity instead of attacking Bengal's ruling party.
"Congress has failed to resist BJP. Their (Congress) irrelevance, incompetence & insecurity has put them in a state of delirium. I urge Rahul Gandhi to revisit their politics of vanity instead of attacking us. Our growth isn't driven by money; it is people's love that propels us," Banerjee said in a series of tweets.
"By the same logic, when Congress contested 92 seats in Bengal Elections in 2021, was it their idea to help the BJP? Rahul Gandhi's statements against TMC is pretty rich, especially coming from a party that has lost 40 out of the last 45 assembly elections in India," he added.
Chief Minister Banerjee sought the ouster of both the BJP and the Congress which have been in power in Meghalaya for many years but have also been denying people of the state of their rights to development.
”They (BJP and Congress) were in power for so many years but could not even build roads in Meghalaya. No medical colleges, no good roads, and no system for healthcare facilities were developed. There was no development but only scandals,” she said, urging the huge crowd at a poll rally in western Meghalaya to vote for her party.
Slamming the Congress, Banerjee said the party failed to fulfil its duty as the main opposition party.
"Congress is asking for votes but where is their moral right? I was in Congress but they expelled us from the party. We are fighting the battle against the BJP and every day BJP is knocking at our doors with ED-CBI," Banerjee said, adding she and her party will "oust" the BJP from Delhi.
The BJP, meanwhile, cited differences between different opposition parties to make light of the prospect of their alliance ahead of next year's Lok Sabha polls.
Addressing an election rally in Dimapur in Nagaland on Tuesday, Kharge asserted that a coalition government led by the Congress will form the next government at the Centre in 2024.
"A Congress-led alliance will come to power at the Centre. We are in talks with other parties. The BJP will not get a majority... all other parties together will. We will follow the Constitution and democracy... Let 100 Modis or Shahs come. This is India and the Constitution is very strong," he asserted.
On Wednesday, Kharge again spoke about the prospects of the Congress and other opposition parties stitching an alliance to take on the BJP.
Kharge said the Congress, together with friendly parties, will form the government collectively in 2024.
In his remarks at the plenary session of the Indian National Trade Union Congress(INTUC), Kharge said everyone will work jointly and the Congress, together with friendly parties, will definitely form the government in 2024.
"This will happen with everyone's cooperation, collectively."
The Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) said all opposition parties need to set aside their egos and come together to unitedly fight the BJP in order to "save democracy" in the country
The Uddhav Thackeray-led outfit in Maharashtra, in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana, said fighting the BJP separately has no political meaning and called on the Congress to take the lead in uniting opposition parties.
"The puzzle of opposition unity needs to be resolved soon. Opposition parties need to unite to counter BJP's fake nationalism and poison of fundamentalism."
The Marathi daily pointed out that Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal) and K Chandrashekar Rao (Telangana) are fighting the BJP separately in their respective state and added this political approach has no meaning.
"How will you fight the BJP by hating the Congress?" the editorial asked. The Shiv Shiv (UBT) is an ally of the Congress in Maharashtra.
The editorial further said the issue of opposition's prime ministerial candidate for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls can be settled later, and need of the hour is for all anti-BJP political forces to come to the discussion table to finalize their strategy.
Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a strong and mature leader after undertaking the country-wide Bharat Jodo Yatra, said the Marathi publication.
BJP leader and former Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi mocked Kharge over his comments on formation of the next government, claiming the Congress is using the "dagger of deceit" to make its barren political land fertile.
"The Congress is unable to digest the fact that for the first time a non-Congress government and Prime Minister Modi has ensured the country's dignity and prosperity with stability and credibility," he told reporters in Delhi.
As far as the issue of alliance is concerned, the entire country knows very well the "cunning character" of the Congress, he said.