With the panchayat polls slated for next year, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has now trained her guns at Congress bastions in the state, making a determined bid to extend her Trinamool Congress' sway to more districts.
Banerjee is on a visit to Congress strongholds like Murshidabad, Malda, North Dinjapur and South Dinajpur. She started her campaign from Nadia, from where the Congress had won the bulk of its seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha and last year's assembly polls.
Allies at the centre and in the state, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress have been behaving more as bitter rivals. Much before the rural electoral battle begins, a war of words between them has intensified even as the opposition Left Front is looking to encash the fragile relationship, hoping for a comeback.
As the chief minister addressed a huge gathering in Murshidabad - one of the strongest Congress forts led by MP Adhir Chowdhuri - the jitters in the Congress seemed apparent as it went on an overdrive, attacking Banerjee.
Of the total 22 seats in Murshidabad district, the Congress had won 14 in last year's assembly elections while the Trinamool Congress bagged just one. Now the party is trying to strengthen its base in the district before the panchayat elections.
While the Trinamool Congress, including Banerjee, claimed the rally to be the "biggest gathering in decades", the Congress did not agree.
"She (Banerjee) has a knack of creating a mountain out of a mole hill. She surely knows magic. Otherwise how can she turn a gathering of a few thousands into lakhs?" quipped Banerjee's bete noire Chowdhuri.
He slammed her for taking credit for projects in which she had no role to play and accused her of using money meant for developmental projects to fund her campaign.
Amid all the bickering, an unfancied microphone took centre-stage when Banerjee had to cut short her speech after the public address system suddenly went dead, prompting some to sniff a conspiracy behind the glitch.
As the "conspiracy theory" gained momentum with demands for "proper investigation", an amazed Surjya Kanta Mishra of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said: "Even electrical instruments are conspiring against her."
While Banerjee continued her visit in the districts addressing rallies and showering sops, the issue of forcible land acquisition - which has been the harbinger for a turnaround in the state's political landscape - cropped up again to haunt West Bengal politics.
Four years after the Tatas shifted out of Singur, the setting up an AIIMS-like hospital at Raiganj in North Dinajpur has been caught in political brinkmanship.
"I will prefer death to acquiring land forcibly from farmers. I went on a 26-day fast and was about to die, but did not compromise," Banerjee said, referring to her 26-day hungerstrike in December 2006 to demand the return of 400 acres to farmers who unwillingly parted with their land for the Tata Motors small car project at Singur in Hooghly district.
The hospital project is likely to fall through if the state government doesn't provide the land. The centrally-funded project was planned for North Dinajpur, the home turf of Congress MP Deepa Dasmunshi.
Reacting to Banerjee's accusation that the Congress was politicising the hospital issue, Dasmunshi blamed the chief minister for shirking her responsibility and vowed to "fight to the last to see that the hospital comes up".
The tug of war between the warring allies started much before Banerjee's visit when leaders from both sides attacked each other on the foundation day of their respective students' wings.
"The Trinamool used the Congress' name and money to come to power, and now instead of trying to get rid of the CPI-M, it is aiming at uprooting the Congress from the state," said Chowdhury, asking Banerjee to go alone in the 2014 elections.
On the other hand, Trinamool Congress Minister for Panchayat Affairs Subrata Mukherjee dubbed the Congress as a "sub-committee of the CPI-M".
The same day, Banerjee dropped a potential bombshell when she announced that her party was ready to face any mid-term poll.
"We don't want the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) dispensation to fall. But I can tell you our party is ready to go for polls any time," she said before leaving to tour the districts.
As the warring allies squabbled at each other, the opposition described Banerjee's visits to the districts a wasteful expenditure.
"Lakhs of rupees are being spent for the tours where nearly the entire cabinet and bureaucrats are taken along," Surjya Kanta Mishra, who is also the leader of the opposition, said.
(Anurag Dey can be contacted at email@example.com)