Cong braces for seat-sharing talks with Mamata Banerjee

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 22:52

New Delhi: With the controversy
surrounding seat-sharing with DMK now settled, an emboldened
Congress is all set to press for an "honourable alliance" with
Trinamool Congress in poll-bound West Bengal.

An indication to this effect was available in the
meeting of district presidents of West Bengal Congress in the
Capital, where there was a clamour that the party should not
hesitate from going it alone in the state if it does not get a
"respectable" number of seats.
Sources said that a number of district chiefs of the
party stressed that the Congress should get 98 seats, which is
one third of the 294 seats in the state Assembly.

They are reported to have rejected the view that
Congress is a "spent force" there and even contended that it
was now emerging with greater vigour after a seven-year rule
of the UPA at the Centre.

The sources in Congress said that the patch-up with
DMK is a good news for the party as it would now be free to
pursue "vigorous negotiations" with Mamata Banerjee`s party
for the Assembly polls in West Bengal.

"Had DMK with its 18 MPs withdrawn support from our
government, it could have been difficult to do hard bargaining
with Trinamool Congress which has 19 MPs in Lok Sabha as both
of them put together could have endangered the existence of
the government. Now we have greater leverage to talk seat
sharing with the ally and put forth our demands openly," said
a leader.
The chiefs of all 19 administrative and five
organisational districts of the state Congress were present
today in the meeting chaired by the newly appointed party
in-charge for West Bengal affairs Shakeel Ahmed.

The meeting assessed the ground situation in the state
to formulate a strategy for Assembly polls.

State PCC chief Manas Bhunia yesterday had a meeting
with Ahmed to discuss the party strategy for the polls.

In the last Lok Sabha election, Congress had contested
14 Lok Sabha seats while Trinamool Congress had fielded
candidates on 28 seats.

The sources said that the district chiefs of Malda, 24
North Paragana, North Dinajpur, Nadia, Murshidabad and
Purullia among others made a strong plea for one-third seats
for the Congress in the polls or else the party should contest

There is a view in a section of the party that the
Congress, which has 19 MLAs in the state assembly now, does
not have to lose much in the state even if it contests alone.

However, senior party leaders are of the view that the
issue should not be stretched too far as the party is still
not that strong in West Bengal as it is in Tamil Nadu.

Earlier when Bhunia had given the proposal last
month, there was strong reaction from Mamata Banerjee`s party,
which made it clear that it won`t be able to give more than 40
to 45 seats to the Congress.

Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress has authorised Union
Minister Mukul Roy and party`s chief whip in Lok Sabha Sudip
Bandopadhyay to hold seat-sharing talks with Congress.


First Published: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 22:52

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