Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi's recent comment about the party keeping all post-poll options open, including an alliance with All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief J Jayalalitha, has angered its ally in Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
The DMK, a key constituent of the United Progressive Alliance, has refused to canvass for Congress candidates in the state. The party is apprehensive that the Congress might be quietly wooing its arch-rival the AIADMK.
"The Congress has shown its real colours," said a senior DMK minister in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cabinet.
The decision to postpone Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's election rallies seems timely, as senior Congress leaders in the state have been fuming at the Gandhi scion's comments.
Now Congress General Secretary Gulam Nabi Azad faces the task of mollifying the DMK in Tamil Nadu.
After Gandhi's press conference on Tuesday, many DMK parliamentarians and leaders have slowed down their speeches and public rallies in the state.
Congress leaders in Tamil Nadu perceive Gandhi's remarks as childish, and feel that he should have visited the state first to assess the ground realities.
"He hasn't visited the state and hasn't read local newspapers. How can a senior general secretary make such sweeping comments," a senior Tamil Nadu Congress Committee secretary told this correspondent.
"It would have been better if Rahul baba had remained silent. The Tamil Nadu Congress is now sandwiched between Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha," say local Congress leaders.
DMK cadres in Tamil Nadu have reportedly refused to campaign for Congress candidates, including high-profile candidates like Union Home Minister Chidambaram, who is contesting from Sivaganga and Union minister Mani Shankar Iyer, who is contesting from Mayiladuthurai.
"Doesn't Gandhi know that Jayalalithaa, in her public addresses, claims that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself intervened to save Sonia Gandhi's Italian friend Ottavio Quttarochi. She also alleges that Gandhi has not shed a single tear for the hundreds of Tamilians who are being massacred in Sri Lanka. With these kind of nasty comments, how can Rahul Gandhi expect the AIADMK to support the UPA," said a local Congress leader.