Kolkata: It took Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee four days to respond to Rahul Gandhi’s sudden, scathing attack on her government last week.
In answer to reporters’ questions on Wednesday, the veteran politician — seen as a contender to the Prime Minister’s post in case of a favourable verdict in the national elections — brushed it off with “He is just a kid. What will I say about it?”
Mr Gandhi has faced attacks on the same lines from leaders of the BJP, who also refer to him frequently by the pejorative “Pappu”.
Ms Banerjee, more than 15 years senior to Mr Gandhi, shared a close rapport with his mother, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. But that relationship had waded into trouble after a Congress leader from Bengal had attacked her in parliament last month. “We will remember,” an upset Ms Banerjee had told Sonia Gandhi on February 13.
The very same evening Ms Banerjee, a strong advocate of regional powers playing a leading role on the national stage, warmed up to the Congress, calling for a pre-poll alliance of opposition parties.
Rahul Gandhi was however non committal on a pre-poll understanding in Delhi and Bengal to take on the BJP. He had said “We will compete with each other as well”, signalling that his party was ready to go it alone in both states.
The Congress next tried to forge an alliance with the CPM – bitter rivals of Ms Banerjee. And last week, Rahul Gandhi, at his first rally in Bengal ahead of the national elections, had attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chief Minister in the same breath, saying her rule is no better than the Left’s.
“Atrocities that used to occur in the CPM rule are still happening under Mamataji,” he said. “Bengal is being run by just one person. She neither talks to anyone nor takes anybody’s suggestion.”
“He (Gandhi) has said whatever he felt like. I won’t like to make any comment on it. He is just a kid. What will I say about it?” said the Bengal Chief Minister, who recently dropped “Congress” from the name of her party.
On Tuesday, Ms Banerjee received electoral support from Akhilesh Yadav, the chief of Samajwadi Party who, along with Mayawati, has kept the Congress out of the alliance in Uttar Pradesh. The SP has said it would organise rallies in support of Trinamool in the state.