The relationship between the Congress and the Trinamool, which is teetering dangerously on the verge of a break-up, continues to worsen further. Firhad Hakim, a senior minister in the West Bengal government belonging to the Trinamool Congress, today said that the "Congress is free to leave the government if they want."
The statement comes just a day after the state unit of the Congress wrote to the party high command, seeking to end the alliance with the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress with which it runs the government. The move followed Ms Banerjee's firm refusal to support Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for President of the country.
Referring to its ally's threat to end ties with it, Mr Hakim said that "such a call is coming from Congress leaders who did not get any ministerial berth" in the government.
The growing chasm between the two parties became glaring after Mr Banerjee skipped a crucial meeting of all UPA allies on Friday evening where Mr Mukherjee was formally named as the coalition's candidate for the presidential poll, scheduled for July 19. The West Bengal Chief Minister, who insists that former president APJ Abdul Kalam is her only choice for the president's post, was also left stranded by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mr Yadav, who initially sided with her over Mr Kalam's candidature, finally opted to go with the UPA.
But Ms Banerjee appears unfazed. After saying last night that the "game isn't over yet", she took the battle with the Congress to another level today. Making her debut on social networking site Facebook, she wrote in her first post, "I gave voice to what millions of Indians want to see in a President," referring to Mr Kalam. (Read)
The Trinamool chief, who is a key partner of the government at the Centre, has said that she does not want to quit the UPA and has dared the Congress to sack her. She had won the state elections last year with a huge margin and does not need the Congress to remain in power.
Mr Mukherjee, after being nominated as the coalition's candidate, appealed to all parties to support him. He singled out Ms Banerjee, describing her as his younger sister, and urged her to change her mind about backing him. Other UPA allies like Sharad Pawar's NCP and the DMK have also asked her to return to the fold but she has, so far, refused.
Without Ms Banerjee, the Congress and its allies have 38 per cent of the vote for President. With Mr Yadav and Mayawati, who has agreed to back Mr Mukherjee, they hit 48 per cent. To cross the 50 per cent mark, they have lobbied the Left, which has said it will take a decision shortly.