- Rahul Gandhi accused Mamata Banerjee of doing nothing for the people
- He also condemned the way Trinamool poached a party parliamentarian
- West Bengal is headed for a four-corner fight in the Lok Sabha elections
Six weeks ago, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee were at the same press meet outside Sharad Pawar's house in New Delhi when she called for a pre-poll alliance. On January 19, the Congress sent two leaders to the Mahagathbandhan rally that Ms Banerjee hosted in Kolkata.
But on Saturday, in his first campaign rally in West Bengal, Mr Gandhi attacked Ms Banerjee in the same breath as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing her of doing nothing for the people and her party of targeting Congress workers.
Mr Gandhi also condemned the way the Trinamool Congress had poached his party's parliamentarian in the north Malda seat. In January, Mausam Benazir Noor - two-time parliamentarian and niece of late Congressman ABA Ghani Khan Chowdhury - had switched sides. She has been fielded by the Trinamool Congress from the same seat.
"The last Congress MP has betrayed you by leaving the party. But this is a Congress bastion, and you should make her realise that one cannot work in Bengal by betraying its people," Mr Gandhi said.
The Congress president did not once take her name, but he did mention Ms Banerjee and PM Modi in the same breath. "Did your youth get employment and did your farmers receive any help? While Narendra Modiji lies on the one hand, your Chief Minister keeps making promises on the other. But eventually, nothing happens," Mr Gandhi said at Chanchole.
Speaking at the rally, Mr Gandhi accused the Mamata Banerjee government of being "no better" than the previous Left Front one. "Bengal is being run by just one person. She neither talks to anyone nor takes anybody's suggestion. She does whatever she feels like," he said. "Does Bengal not have any voice? Should one person be allowed to run an entire state?"
The Congress chief said the Left and Trinamool had both failed to ensure Bengal's development. "After seeing the CPI-M rule for years, you chose Mamata Banerjee. But the Bengal situation is the same even now. Atrocities that used to occur in the CPM rule are still happening under Mamataji," he said.
The Trinamool response to Mr Gandhi has been tepid. "Rahul Gandhi does not know how much Mamata Banerjee has done for farmers," said Firhad Hakim, minister in the Mamata Banerjee government.
"In fact, he knows nothing about Bengal and there is no Congress in Bengal. Rahul is wasting his time here. He should go to other states and fight against the BJP. Here, Mamata (Banerjee) is fighting against the BJP and the people are with her."
Malda North will see a four-corner fight. Isha Khan Chowdhury, the nephew of Ghani Khan and first cousin of Mausam Benazir Noor, will fight against her on a Congress ticket. Biswanath Ghosh has been fielded by the Left, and former CPM legislator Khagen Murmu will fight on a BJP ticket from Malda North.
Malda is a Muslim-majority district. In Malda North, three assembly segments out of seven are Hindu majority.
BJP president Amit Shah had also kicked off his Bengal campaign from the Malda North seat in January.