Congress , Trinamool tie up
The Congress met ally Trinamool Congress’s deadline to settle seat-sharing for the West Bengal election by 4pm on Monday, agreeing to contest 65 of 294 seats without the assurances it sought on specific “winnable” constituencies. At a hurriedly convened press meet at 3.45pm on Monday, the Congress announced it would contest in partnership with Trinamool and its objective was to end the 34-year-old “Left misrule”. Party incharge of state affairs Shakeel Ahmed disagreed with the suggestion that the Congress was forced to “compromise” and said the share of 65 seats was a “negotiated settlement dictated on the sentiments of voters”. In Kolkata, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee called the alliance “historic”. “We are happy,” she said. When asked about the tortuous seat-sharing talks, Mamata said, “Don’t worry. It is your gossip. The CPM may be crying but you should smile.” What seems to have weighed heavily was the Congress’s lack of choices, given the virtual ultimatum from Mamata. A breach would go against the Congress commitment to oust the Left and create enormous strains in the ruling arrangement at the Centre. Seeking the support of groups such as Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP is off the table, with the Congress focused on the UP assembly elections next year. Accepting Trinamool’s token increase of one seat from the 64 offered does not address the issues on which the Congress prolonged the negotiation. Mamata refused to concede the two Kolkata seats held by the Congress. Sources said delimitation reduced the seats in the city from 22 to 11 and she argued she was having a tough time accommodating her candidates. Keeping in view a paucity of options, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who returned from London on Sunday night, met Pranab Mukherjee on Monday morning and decided to conclude the negotiations. However, within hours, the state Congress had a near revolt in its ranks. Many leaders, including strongman Adhir Chowdhury, vented their ire. Congress MLA Kaleq Mollah said he would contest as an Independent in Metiabruz. Six-time Congress MLA Ram Pyare Ram, who is now certain to lose his Kolkata Port seat, did not rule out fighting as an Independent.