By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Dec 2 (IANS): Relegated to the political pavement as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stormed Mumbai in her 2-day-long high-profile trip which ended on Thursday, the Maharashtra Congress unitedly slammed her for her 'RIP'-ping comments spelling doom for the UPA.
Banerjee met leaders of two of the 3 ruling allies - Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena's MP Sanjay Raut and Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray, met civil society members, some industrialists, film personalities, but obviously she had no love lost for the state Congress.
The visiting leader's shocker came during her brief media interaction, when she virtually blurted out - "What UPA? There's no UPA now..." stunning the Congress and momentarily even the NCP supremo Pawar seemed dazed but kept his legendary cool.
An enraged Congress top brass hit back, though diplomatically - to avoid antagonising the Sena-NCP leaders or even remotely appear siding with the BJP - and harked on the grand old party's contributions, the Gandhis' leadership while blaming Banerjee's "personal ambitions and ego" and painting the BJP as the real villain.
"The BJP is a threat to the Constitution and Democracy. Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are constantly challenging the dictatorial attitude of the BJP," said State Congress President Nana Patole.
The Congress Legislature Party Leader Balasaheb Thorat dismissively said, "no individual party can fight the BJP if that party only thinks of its own political gains and personal ambitions" and the Congress remains the sole viable option before the country.
AICC Secretary Sanjay Dutt said, "if there is one party which has been fighting fascist forces and standing up for the people of India, it's the Congress", and others are now posturing only to grab the 'chair' (power).
"If any other party leader makes any baseless, sarcastic or malafide comments about Rahul Gandhi, we will give a befitting reply and show them the mirror of their past stance and statements," hissed Dutt.
State PWD Minister Ashok Chavan hit back at Banerjee saying the "Congress and its leadership needs no certification for its commitment to Democracy and Constitution, or its tireless struggle against the BJP's policies".
"Since before Independence, Congress has been fighting for the commoners, the rights of the people... The (BJP) central government is using the 'divide-and-rule' policy on the opposition parties. In such a scenario, it becomes the responsibility of all non-BJP parties not to indulge in politics that supports this policy of the Centre," said Chavan sharply.
Patole pointed out how Rahul Gandhi has stood firm against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP, on the land acquisition law and the three black agriculture laws, the BJP's divisive policies, inflation, unemployment, etc.
"The country is more important than personal ambitions or egos... A political party restricted to one state cannot provide an alternative to the BJP. Given the gravity of the situation, all like-minded parties must come together in the national interest," urge Patole, adding only Congress is the viable option to the BJP.
Thorat cautioned that criticising Rahul Gandhi would only help the BJP which he has fearlessly challenged, plus the Congress and the entire Gandhi family has borne the oppression of the BJP, but they were not cowed down.
Some political commentators have claimed that despite the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) venturing into uncharted territories where it is barely known or has any base, ultimately they will need Congress support to form the government as it happened during the tenures of the former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda or I.K. Gujral.
Besides Congress, even the Opposition BJP leaders attacked Didi, questioning her 'private' meeting with Shiv Sena leaders and asked whether Maharashtra would go the West Bengal way.