Mamata for early state polls; CPM says no

Kolkata: Inflicting a humiliating defeat on the CPI(M)-led Left Front in the civic elections in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today demanded advancing of the 2011 assembly elections and said she favoured a 'grand alliance' for it.

"I have faith on the Congress leadership. I want to keep up relations with the UPA government," she told a press conference here.

The alliance between the two parties had floundered over the elections to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, which was held along with 80 other civic bodies on Sunday and the results of which were declared today.

Asked about alliance with the Congress for the assembly elections, she said, "I can't say anything about tomorrow. I am not a political astrologer. I am always open for alliance. I am in favour of a mahajote (grand alliance). Let us see what happens."

"Elections can be held within six months (from the scheduled date). "The CPI(M) has lost all right to continue in power. Assembly elections should be held immediately.

"As per the Constitution, the matter comes under the Election Commission six months prior to elections. Since assembly elections are due in some states in October, it can decide that those in West Bengal can be held along with it. I have calculated six months from May (when the assembly election is due)," she said.

Stating that Lok Sabha elections had given signs that CPI(M) could be defeated, Banerjee said, "in the LS polls, it was easier for us because we fought in alliance (with Congress).

Taking a swipe at Congress over the failed alliance for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections, she said, "But in this election, we had to fight the CPI(M), Congress and BJP."

Without naming the Congress, she said, "We did not break the alliance. Someone has broken it. Yet, our performance was hundred times better."

She said the CPI(M) had earlier lost 10 assembly by-elections and won only 16 municipalities out of 81 in the civic polls. "They should accept people's verdict."

She said there was no change in the state in the last 34 years as the "people were not allowed to vote. We fought a hard battle in which many of our workers were killed. Politics is a struggle. The people have seen our struggle. It is a marvellous victory".

Banerjee attributed her party's victory to the 'ma-mati-manush' (mother, land and people) slogan for change in the state. "People have given a verdict in favour of political change in the state. I salute the people."

Results no basis for early polls: CPM

The CPI(M) today accepted defeat but said the results were not a basis for demanding advancement of assembly elections in the state.

Noting that the civic elections were held in urban areas only, senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury admitted that the results were a setback to the Left Front as the reverses of the Lok Sabha have not been reversed, but only arrested.

Observing that the entire electorate in the civic polls accounted for only 17 per cent of the total electorate, he said, "It is less than one-fifth of the total state electorate. 83 per cent of the people did not participate in these elections. So, this does not constitute any basis for demanding advancement (of assembly elections)".

He was replying to questions on TC chief Mamata Banerjee's demand for advancing the assembly polls scheduled in mid-2011.

In a tongue-and-cheek remark aimed at the Railway Minister, he said, "Let us hope now that the municipalities in Bengal will be run better than the Indian Railways".

Yechury said, "We accept the people's verdict in the civic elections. But we would also point out that our vote percentage has shown marginal improvement of over four per cent than the last Lok Sabha elections".

"It shows that the trend seen in the Lok Sabha elections has been arrested but not reversed," he said, adding that the party would soon review and introspect on the civic poll outcome to decide on the road ahead.

Replying to a spate of questions on the municipal polls, Yechury said the anti-Left votes "always get consolidated even without a 'mahajot' (TC-Congress unity)."