The cold war between the Congress and the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress intensified as both parties blamed each other for not forming a combined force to beat the BJP in the upcoming Goa polls.
The latest salvo was fired by TMC leader Pavan Varma on Thursday (January 20), when he rubbished the claim made by the Congress leader P Chidambaram that no “concrete offer of an alliance” was made by the TMC to fight the Goa assembly elections.
Pawan Varma told NDTV that he was “dismayed, disappointed and also surprised” at the manner in which Chidambaram, a senior Congress leader who has been Finance Minister and Home Minister, was “misleading” people.
According to former Janata Dal (United) leader, Varma met Chidambaram at his Lodhi residence in Delhi in December and had made a concrete offer to the Congress since TMC chief Mamata Banerjee was keen on a “strong, unified Opposition”.
Earlier, Chidambaram had strongly denied in a television interview that there was any “concrete offer” made by the Congress to the TMC. To the best of his knowledge, it was more of a “suggestion” that there should be an alliance and that no details such as allocation of seats were discussed between them.
The former finance minister however added that if there was any conversation between the two principles (Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee) he would not know unless he was told by one of them. “I was not told about any concrete offer. To the best of my knowledge, there was a suggestion that we should work together. But there was no concrete offer,” stressed the senior Congress leader, added the report.
Varma said this was a “big public untruth” and this statement is far removed from the truth.
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On December 4, as national vice-president of TMC, Varma had met him at his residence in Delhi. During the meeting, he had made a concrete offer to him in person that the two parties should form an alliance in Goa as a united Opposition. “This was a concrete offer from my party to the Congress,” said the Trinamool Congress leader.
Chidambaram also told him that he was not in a position to respond to such an offer and he would have to take it to his leadership. The next day, Chidambaram allegedly called him to say that he had spoken to his leader Rahul Gandhi who told him that if this had to be taken further the two principles need to speak, said Varma.
Varma also added that Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee did speak with each other and the former’s reply was that she would take a decision after consulting the senior leadership. The ball was in the court of the Congress and we were waiting for a response for the concrete offer we have made, pointed out Varma.
Rahul Gandhi was abroad at that time, and he had called Chidambaran to ask him to expedite the proposal for an alliance since the time was running out and they had to prepare for the elections. But the Congress has not made any move on this front, said the Trinamool Congress leader, who added that he can say with certainty that there was a concrete proposal since he was personally involved.
The record had to be set straight, he said. Meanwhile, Congress leaders speaking to reporters anonymously said that several factors were behind the party’s unwillingness to ally with the TMC in Goa. According to a Congress leader, the Congress was the principal Opposition party in Goa, while TMC as a new entrant doesn’t have much to offer them. They were also unsure of TMC’s equation with the AAP (another new entrant) in Goa.
The Congress high command is also miffed with the TMC’s top leadership for its unwarranted attacks on the Congress. Another Congress leader put it succinctly, the existence of the TMC is based on MLAs poached from their party and it was strange that they wanted to do a pact with them.
Meanwhile, Mahua Moitra, Trinamool’s Goa in-charge, who was engaged in a war of words with Chidambaram on Twitter over the need for all parties to unite to fight against the BJP in Goa pointed out that “no one should be on their high horse” as the need of the hour was to defeat the BJP.
She was replying to a tweet by Chidambaram who said that the formula to defeat the BJP should be “Congress plus others, not others plus Congress.” He added that the contest in Goa is between Congress and BJP.
Finally, she had the last word when she tweeted that two weeks ago, the TMC had already made formal & definitive offer to INC on Goa to defeat BJP; that the INC leadership had asked for time to revert. If Chidambaram was not aware of details he should talk to his leadership rather than making these statements.