West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s remark on the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has sparked a row with opposition parties as several have hit back at the CM for “praising” the right-wing outfit.

At a press conference on Wednesday, West Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee said, “RSS wasn’t that bad earlier. I don’t believe that they (RSS) are bad. Still, there are many good people in RSS and they don’t support BJP.”

While the AIMIM, Congress and CPM on Thursday attacked her for what they saw as opportunism on Banerjee’s part, the BJP said it did not need certificates from her.

The sharpest attack came from the Hyderabad-based All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who on Thursday said that in 2003 too, she had called RSS patriots’, (and) in turn RSS had called her Durga.

Owaisi, whose party failed to win a single seat including Muslim majority constituencies in Bengal in the last assembly elections where it positioned itself as opposed to both TMC and BJP, said sarcastically hope TMC’s Muslim faces’ praise her for her honesty and consistency.

The TMC, however, tried to make light of Owaisi’s remark and said the party doesn’t need to prove its secular credentials to him.

“We don’t need to prove anything to Owaisi. Mamata Banerjee has tried to say that every organisation has good and bad people. We don’t need to prove our secular credentials to anyone after we defeated the BJP-RSS juggernaut in the last assembly polls,” TMC MP Sougata Roy said.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Thursday told PTI “”This is not for the first time that she (Mamata Banerjee) has praised the RSS.”

Banerjee had allied herself with the BJP-led NDA during late Atal Behari Vajpayee’s term at Prime Minister, before distancing herself from the NDA but had a tempestuous relationship with the alliance, often attacking it over disinvestment and other issues.

He repeated Owaisi’s instance from 2003, when “she had participated in a book release programme of the RSS. She had sought their support to topple the Left Front government (then).” Chowdhury claimed Banerjee had even before that expressed her gratitude to the Nagpur-based RSS, which is considered the ideological parent of the BJP.

“Sometimes she cajoles Hindu fundamentalists and sometimes the Muslims to get electoral dividends. Mamata Banerjee has been exposed again,” the Congress leader told PTI.

The Communists were not far behind in pillorying Banerjee. CPI(M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty claimed that her comments vindicate the Left party’s stand that she is a “product” of the RSS.

“It is once again clear that TMC is not trustworthy in the fight against BJP,” the CPI(M) leader claimed.

BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh said neither the RSS nor the BJP need a certificate from Banerjee.

“We don’t need a certificate from Mamata Banerjee on who is good and who is bad. It is for the people to decide. We are not answerable to her,” Ghosh said.

(With agency inputs)

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