Stung by desertions, a combative Trinamool Congress challenged Suvendu Adhikari, who led the exodus on Saturday, to name the person he alluded to as the beneficiary "bhaipo" (nephew) of the party.
There is no aspirant for the chief minister's post from the family of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, senior party leader Kalyan Banerjee told newspersons here.
Referring to the comment by Adhikari, who joined the saffron camp at a rally by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Midnapore, to remove the "bhaipo" (nephew) from TMC, Banerjee told newspersons that none in TMC has any personal interest driven by family interests.
Challenging Adhikari, Banerjee said, "You (Adhikari) lack courage so you cannot name whom you mean."
He said, "None from the family of Mamata Banerjee have any aspiration to occupy the CM's post. None in our party has any family-driven personal interest. Everyone works under the directive of our leader Mamata Banerjee for the sake of the people and the party."
Adhikari and other BJP leaders, including Shah and Kailash Vijayvargiya, had often in the past used the word "bhaipo" (nephew in Bengali) alluding to Banerjee's nephew and party youth wing president Abhishek Banerjee. It had evoked strong rebuttal from the chief minister.
"Don't make personal attacks. TMC is not being driven by any family or propelled by its interests. There are instances of parivar tantra in the case of those who are making such cheap attacks," Banerjee said.
The Adhikari family, to which Suvendu Adhikari belongs, is a prominent political family in East midnapore district. His father Sisir Adhikari and brother Dibyendu are TMC MPs in the district.
The TMC leader ridiculed Shah having lunch at a farmer's home in West Midnapore district.
"You(Shah) cannot be called a friend of farmers. It is all fake. You cannot turn into a friend of farmers by having lunch at a peasant's home. Your three farm bills remind one of the indigo cultivators in Bengal in the 19th century and the rebellion by the farmers then". Labelling BJP as a party of looters, Banerjee said "leaders like Shah are using different agencies to issue threats to opposition leaders, tempting them and using coercion."
Accusing Shah of producing "a garbage of lies" at the Midnapore meeting, Banerjee said BJP leaders like him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi do not have the right to talk about the great personalities of Bengal and their sacrifices.
"Shah paid tribute to martyrs Khudiram Bose, Matangini Hazra and social reformer Iswarchandra Vidyasagar in Midnapore today. Had their words and objectives motivated Shah, his name would not have been linked with the 2002 Gujarat riots," he said.
The union home minister, he said, is either ignorant about the history of Bengal politics or is trying to mislead the people by his public comments.
"Shah today claimed that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had also left her party like Suvendu Adhikari to launch Trinamool Congress. Doesn't Shah know that she had been forced to quit Congress to which she then belonged and then formed TMC ?
The TMC leader continued, "Suvendu Adhikari had got all the prime postings in TMC in all these years. He can never be compared to Mamata Banerjee. Shah is defending a person who spreads falsehoods.
Stating that Adhikari cannot take the sole credit of the Nandigram movement, the TMC leader said Mamata Banerjee had led the people's movement and her name is synonymous with the common people. "She has been made the chief minister by the people of West Bengal, not by any leader".
Hinting that Adhikari does not enjoy as much support as was being projected, Banerjee "So why did you (Adhikari) lose the 2004 or the 1996 parliamentary polls? It shows when you won, it was not due to your charisma but due to Mamata Banerjee."
He claimed there was not much crowd in the Midnapore rally which showed that not many people from Nandigram and Khejuri, which are reportedly Adhikari's strongholds, attended it.
Wondering why it took 10 years for Adhikari to realise his "folly" of being with TMC, Banerjee "You have touched Amit Shah's feet on the stage today. In the past 10 years you had similarly touched the feet of Mamata Banerjee. So you were play acting all these years."
Continuing his attack against Adhikari, Banerjee said "You (Adhikari) said you want respect. You got ministerial portfolios, you became MP twice. You had been appointed to several corporations committees as chairman. You had been party observer in many districts.
"Isn't that enough? What kind of respect did you want?" he added.