NEW DELHI: The Congress on Saturday accused the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress of undermining the leadership of the grand old party and said its attack on Rahul Gandhi was "unwarranted and in poor taste".
The remarks of the Congress came after the TMC's Bengali mouthpiece 'Jago Bangla' ran a cover story, attacking Gandhi by saying he has failed to take on the BJP and Banerjee, who is the chief minister of West Bengal, should be the opposition's face now.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said he has seen reports citing an article in the official publication of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
The same is not in good taste as Rahul Gandhi a former Congress president -- is fighting a bigger battle to save democracy, he said.
"Let me say that Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party are fighting a bigger battle of saving democracy, protecting the Constitution and our national ethos that are under attack from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP-RSS," Surjewala said.
"We also find the attack on Rahul Gandhi is unwarranted and in poor taste," he said.
Jago Bangla had ran the cover story with the headline: 'Rahul Gandhi failed, Mamata is the alternate face'.
Surjewala said the Congress respects all political parties and their leadership and recognises their contribution in the united fight against the BJP.
"Everyone must understand that Opposition unity cannot be built by undermining the leadership of other parties, including the Congress Party.
In fact, all like-minded parties, including Mamta Banerjee ji, have repeatedly vowed to fight together.
Hopefully, those writing such articles will take note of Mamata ji's and Opposition parties' stance," he said.
Congress leader in Lok Sabha and the party's West Bengal chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the views expressed by TMC's mouthpiece will weaken the unity and convergence among opposition parties.
The article comes at a time when opposition parties are trying to come together and present a united face in fighting and defeating the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The article in the TMC publication stated that the country is seeking an alternative face.
"I have known Rahul Gandhi for a long time, but I must say he has failed to emerge as an alternative face to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But Mamata Banerjee has been successful in emerging as an alternative face to Modi," the story quoted the TMC's Lok Sabha party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay as said.
Congress leaders have said that this will adversely affect the bonhomie between the Congress and the TMC, and does not bode well for opposition unity.
Senior TMC leader Kunal Ghosh on Friday said the party neither intends to disrespect the Congress nor wants to talk about an alternative to the BJP government at the Centre without it.
"Bandopadhyay has not talked about any alternative force without the Congress.
He just said in his experiences, people are not accepting Rahul Gandhi as an alternative face to Narendra Modi.
He (Gandhi) is not ready yet," Ghosh said.
The Congress leader could not prove it (defeating the BJP) in the last two Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019, the state TMC spokesperson said.
"But after the 2021 assembly poll victory, Mamata Banerjee has been successful in emerging as an alternative (face to Modi), he said.
Veteran Congress leader and MP Pradip Bhattacharya said it is for the opposition allies to unanimously decide who will be their common leader.
Banerjee, who has emerged as the doughtiest opposition face after her resounding victory in the West Bengal assembly polls, has been trying to bring together opposition parties to form an alternative force against the BJP government ahead of the next Lok Sabha polls.