New Delhi: The Congress wants a "respectable" alliance with the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal to end decades of Left rule, and seat sharing talks for assembly polls will begin within a fortnight, says Congress leader K Keshava Rao.
"We want a respectable alliance based on our strength and winnability. The cadres should not feel demoralised," Rao, 70, who is the party in-charge of West Bengal, said.
He said it was the duty of the Congress and the Trinamool Congress led by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee to ensure that party workers were battle-ready. "This is (possible) only if she (Banerjee) understands and adjusts to rightful demands," Rao said.
He quickly added: "The Congress also should understand the stand of the Trinamool and their point of view. When we strike a balance, we (will) have success."
He said the chief minister's post should go to Mamata Banerjee -- if the alliance wins. "She is the leader," he said.
Though Rao did not say how many seats the Congress would like to contest in alliance with the Trinamool, he said there was a perception that the party should have got "two or three more seats" in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections which the two parties fought together, giving the Left Front the shock of its life.
The Congress fought 14 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal in 2009. Each Lok Sabha constituency covers half a dozen to 10 assembly segments.
"It (number of seats each party contests) must evolve based on capacities and assessment," Rao said, adding that the Congress must get its due depending on "winnablity, stature and party's standing”.
West Bengal's Left Front, led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), is expected to face its most serious challenge in the coming assembly elections, mainly from a rejuvenated Trinamool Congress.
While the Congress and Trinamool hope to enter the battle as allies, Trinamool is in no mood to concede too many seats to the Congress. But the Congress does not want to act like an also ran.
Rao said he was confident that the Congress-Trinamool alliance "will be very smooth, friendly and meaningful".
He said he had presented a detailed plan to Congress president Sonia Gandhi about the party's preparations.
"We are going to sweep the polls and throw out the government led by the CPI-M," he said.
Alleging increased violence and unemployment in the state, he insisted that people were looking for a change. "The people want the Left to go."
Despite Trinamool's optimism, the CPI-M led the Left Front to an easy victory in the 2006 elections.
The CPI-M won 176 seats and its allies took another 51 seats. The Trinamool and the Congress party were decimated, winning just 30 and 21 seats respectively.
But the Left suffered a major blow in the Lok Sabha elections of 2009, and Left sources admit that the ruling Front is facing a crisis of sorts.
First Published: Saturday, February 19, 2011, 13:09