Kolkata: In the continuing war of words between Congress and Trinamool Congress, the two ruling allies in West Bengal, Union Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday defended his comment that Congress had not taken a VRS from the state and said it would continue to speak its mind on the state's affairs.
"Congress is a political party and not an NGO. We have not taken (political) sanyas," Ramesh said at a panchayati raj conference here amid cheers from party workers who thronged the venue, Netaji Indoor Stadium, in large numbers.
"We have been in political power at the Centre and in some states. The Congress is the only party whose flag flies in all villages of the country. We are in the opposition in some states. In Tamil Nadu, we have been in the opposition for 40 years, but our party flag flies high there," he said.
Ramesh said Congress was (with Trinamool Congress) at the Centre as well as in West Bengal. "We are aware of the Lakshman Rekha. We will not cross the Lakshman Rekha. But the Congress would not take unsolicited advice from anyone."
Ramesh said if there was good relation between the Centre and the states, it would be good for both of them to function.
The minister, who reportedly negotiated for the crucial Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill that was tabled in Parliament sometime back, met Mamata recently to discuss the finer points of the bill.
Mamata had opposed a previous version of the bill in the past.
Party insiders said Mamata was upset over Ramesh's remark which he first made in Jhargram while on a tour of West Midnapore district on Saturday.
The sources said Ramesh, who was accompanied by the minister of state for rural development and Trinamool leader, Sisir Adhikary, during his tour had sought an appointment with Mamata for on Sunday through Adhikary, but she expressed her inability, saying she would be pre-occupied.
Mamata had slammed the Congress for taking out an anti-government rally from Hazra near her residence in South Kolkata on Friday.
Pranab Mukherjee, who spoke first at the panchayat convention today, however, did not utter a single word on the spat between the two allies except for a muted criticism of the state government's decision to delegate more powers to bureaucrats allegedly bypassing the elected representatives.
"The decentralisation of power is necessary for carrying out the development. But it cannot be done only through officers," Pranab said.
However, state Congress leaders in the presence of Pranab Mukherjee one after another lashed out at government policies and criticised Mamata, without taking her name, for allegedly trying to marginalise their party in the state.