Kolkata: Congress in West Bengal on Saturday said it accepted the challenge thrown by ally Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee that it would go it alone in the state henceforth but said it would remain in the Mamata Banerjee-led government.

Reacting sharply to Banerjee's declaration at a rally here, WBPCC president Pradip Bhattacherjee told reporters "we are least bothered. If she so decides, she can go ahead and fight alone. We have the guts to contest on our own strength. We are prepared to fight alone. We accept the challenge.

"I do not know why she said this at this moment. If TMC had not aligned with Congress in the assembly polls (held last year), it would not have come to power in the state," he claimed.

Terming the TC chief's announcement as a "betrayal", he said the people had voted Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance to power after 34 years of Left Front rule.

Asked whether Congress would remain in the Mamata Banerjee government, he said "future will say. Right now, we cannot say anything in this regard. The issue has been discussed in our state party earlier. We have left the matter to the party high command. Till high command asks us, we will stay" (in the government) he said.

On Banerjee's complaint about the Centre's alleged neglect of the state's financial demands including a three-year moratorium on interest payment, Bhattacharya said the Centre was providing the state all assistance.

"Previous chief ministers Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacherje had also similarly passed the buck to the Centre. This proves that there is only change of Chief Minister in name and not in work," the PCC chief said.

Meanwhile, on Banerjee's statement hinting at preponing of panchayat election in the state, CPI(M) said it would be an "undemocratic" move.

"The panchayat election is scheduled in May next year after the expiry of the five-year tenure of the local bodies. It can be advanced only by dissolving the existing panchayat bodies, which will be an undemocratic step," CPI(M) leader Surya Kanta Mishra, who is also the Leader of the Opposition, said.

The panchayat election would be a dress rehearsal for major political parties to determine their strength before the 2014 Lok Sabha election.


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