The Bengal chief minister is apparently cut up with the way the secularism show hosted by Sonia Gandhi was organised on Tuesday.
Later, when she tried to complain to Arun Jaitley about the BJP team in Bengal, the guest was gently interrupted and reminded that she was there to enquire after the Union finance minister's health, according to sources.
The grouse against the Congress event is by no means aired by the Trinamul camp alone. Several regional leaders have complained in private that they were literally reduced to spectators while attention was lavished on the international delegates.
The regional leaders, such as Mamata who has proved her mettle in electoral politics, felt that no serious attempt was made to forge a secular platform.
They said the commemoration of Jawaharlal Nehru's 125th birth anniversary, organised by the Congress, became a bureaucratic event run by second-rung party leaders.
Sonia was busy on the dais with the international delegates while the non-Congress Indian politicians were largely left to fend for themselves. Rahul Gandhi was seated next to Prakash Karat yesterday but he did not make any attempt to go around the hall or mingle with the other leaders, a regional leader said.
One politician pointed out that "we heard theories and principles but nobody even named the leaders who attended the conference".
Dripping sarcasm, one Congress veteran said: "We probably thought it is demeaning to recognise national leaders at an international conference." "She (Sonia) could at least have had a separate tea session with the regional party leaders. That would have provided an opportunity to all the non-BJP leaders to come together to discuss the rise of communalism," said an aide of Mamata who today called on home minister Rajnath Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee.
Today, asked whether the Congress would take the initiative for a secular front, Mamata said: "I don't know who will take the lead. We could not talk to Soniaji as she was busy with the foreign delegates at the function."
Her party leaders said Mamata wanted the Congress to take the back seat and allow the regional forces to take the lead.
At yesterday's meeting with Jaitley, Mamata was just getting into the groove, reeling off a litany of complaints against the BJP's Bengal team, when she was interrupted and reminded of the reason for her visit.
Health was Mamata's official reason for calling on the Union finance minister as well as BJP veteran L.K. Advani hours after attending the secularism conference. Her visit to Advani's home was to enquire after his wife Kamla, who has been ailing for some time.
Sources said that a little after greetings were exchanged, Mamata complained to Jaitley that the BJP's Bengal leaders, including central minder Sidarth Nath Singh, were "overly aggressive" and "provoked violence all the time".
The sources said Jaitley steered the discussion back to his health and other topics. Jaitley had been hospitalised last month after a weight-loss surgery.
Mamata's forays in Delhi - as proved during the presidential polls when she initially refused to back Mukherjee and the flop-show ahead of the Lok Sabha polls - have often ended in disarray.
BJP sources later put Jaitley's response in context, saying that the word from the party leadership to the Bengal apparatus was to "go all out and be as aggressive as you can without looking back".
The sources added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah were categorical that the "political line" against Mamata would be "confrontationist".
The BJP sources said the Prime Minister and Shah were equally clear that their approach towards Bengal and Mamata would not be clouded by the ambiguity that marked the party's response in Bihar when former chief minister Nitish Kumar had hardened his stand towards Modi.
Eventually, Nitish pulled the plug and was compelled to resign as chief minister when the Lok Sabha gamble backfired and his party could win only two of the 40 seats in the state.
With Modi now firmly ensconced in New Delhi and Shah executing an expansion strategy, the BJP sources emphasised that there was "no question" of revising their stand on Mamata. "The votes are for or against Mamata and our assessment is that the anti-Mamata votes are regrouping around the BJP," a source said.
Unlike Bihar, where the secular-communal polemics centred around Modi had come into play, in Bengal, the source said, the BJP was unequivocal about two things.
"We will carry out a dignified campaign against Bangladeshi infiltrators and reinforce the message that every Bengali Muslim is a "desh bhakt" (patriot) and the discourse would be about "development for all", the source added.
Shah's public meeting in Calcutta on November 30 is expected to list the talking points that the others would amplify in the ensuing campaign. The venue of the meeting is now caught in an administrative dispute.
-The Telegraph, Calcutta