Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has said he stands by his remarks on his party's estranged ally Mamata Banerjee. Mr Singh had recently called the Trinamool chief "immature" and "irrational." His comments came in the wake of Ms Banerjee's refusal to back Pranab Mukherjee as the UPA's choice for President of India.
"It was extremely immature and embarrassing not only for the Congress President but even to the Prime Minister...certainly it was embarrassing for us because an ally after discussing with the UPA Chairperson came out and said we reject these two names and came out with three other names. She pulled out these three names out of the hat and as the events had played out, it shows she did not have the consent of any of these three...It was not a mature thing to do...I am surprised they did this...we never expected that Mamata and Mulayam will throw names arbitrarily," Mr Singh had told a private TV channel in an interview earlier this month.
He had even referred to her as being "erratic in some way". "That is Mamata...nothing is impossible, nothing is unexpected as far as Mamata is concerned," he had said.
Mr Singh's party has distanced itself from his remarks and has clarified that his views are personal and that he was not speaking in the capacity of a Congress spokesperson.
But despite the Congress' stand, seen by many as a snub, Mr Singh remains unfazed an undeterred. He told NDTV that he "stands by every word I have said." He even reiterated that Ms Banerjee's stance on the presidential election was "an embarrassment to the Prime Minister himself."
Ms Banerjee is the only Congress ally who is opposed Mr Mukherjee's candidature for President. At a meeting last week when the Congress declared Mr Mukherjee as its nominee, Ms Banerjee was conspicuous by her absence. She wanted a new term for former President APJ Abdul Kalam, but he eventually decided not to run against Mr Mukherjee.
Two days before the official announcement about Mr Mukherjee's candidature was made, Ms Banerjee had met Congress President Sonia Gandhi. After her meeting, she told reporters that Mrs Gandhi had named Mr Mukherjee as her first choice, and Vice-President Hamid Ansari as the runner up. In a presser barely few hours later, she and Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav together shared three choices for President. Shockingly, their choice rejected Mr Mukherjee and included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The other two names were former speaker Somnath Chatterjee and Dr Kalam. Mr Yadav however later sided with the Congress, alienating the Trinamool Congress chief.
The Congress has accused Mamata of betraying political and ethical sensibilities and said it should not have shared with reporters the details of her meeting with Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday. It also took strong offense to Ms Banerjee's suggestion that the Prime Minister be considered for President and declared that it cannot spare Dr Manmohan Singh from his role as Prime Minister. The party asserted that Dr Singh will remain in office till the general election in 2014.
Despite Ms Banerjee's dramatic rejection of his candidacy and her continued defiance, Mr Mukherjee had urged her to change her mind about backing him. "Every political leader has the right to express his or her own view in own way. But I will seek the support of Mamata Banerjee, I consider her as my sister. So I have no problem in seeking the support from Mamata Banerjee and her party," he had said.
But the West Bengal Chief Minister has so far refused to oblige. Her party has so far just said that its chief Mamata Banerjee was keeping a close watch and the party would take an 'appropriate decision at the appropriate time'.
Ms Banerjee has often arm-twisted the government on key policy issues, like FDI in retail and petrol price hike, and has hence proved to be the Congress' toughest ally. When asked if his party has hence have "reached a limit" with the Trinamool Congress, Mr Singh said, "No. Internally there was no question of ever considering that but at the same time, she floats his (the PM's) name and you can't obviously seem to be backing that name."
Election for President of India is on July 19.