Trinamool, Congress seal seat-sharing deal for Bengal polls (Intro Roundup)

March 22nd, 2011 - 12:37 am ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, March 21 (IANS) Aiming to end the 34-year rule of the Left Front in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress and the Congress Monday announced a seat-sharing pact for the April-May assembly polls in the state. Under the deal, Trinamool will contest 227 seats while the Congress will field 65 candidates.

However, a section of the state Congress leaders are very upset at the deal.

Congress and Trinamool announced the seat-sharing accord at two separate press conferences in New Delhi and Kolkata respectively.

Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee told media persons in Kolkata that getting the Congress in the historic fight against the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front will be beneficial.

“We already have an alliance at the centre. But getting the Congress with us in this historic fight against the misrule of CPI-M is a big thing. We are very happy,” she said.

Congress leader in-charge of West Bengal Shakeel Ahmed made the announcement in New Delhi.

The Trinamool Congress, which has given two seats to the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), will be contesting 227 seats out of the total 294 seats.

Earlier last week, seat-sharing talks between the two parties failed and went to the verge of a break up after Banerjee unilaterally announced candidates for 228 assembly seats, indicating that it wanted the Congress to field candidates in the remaining 64 seats.

The breakthrough came after Union Finance Minister and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee spoke to Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata over telephone Monday morning. Before that, Mukherjee had met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi.

Ahmed Monday denied that the Congress had made a compromise or had surrendered before Trinamool. “When two parties agree for a negotiated settlement, we should honour that,” he said answering queries.

Congress sources said Sonia Gandhi was keen on the alliance and wanted that the seat-sharing accord to be sealed at the earliest.

The party sources also added that party’s assessment was that people of the state wanted a change from the Left Front rule and there was more to be gained by being part of an alliance with the Trinamool than contesting alone.

However, the pact has left a section of state Congress leaders fuming. They have voiced their disappointment at the way Congress bowed to pressure under Trinamool and forged an alliance on “disrespectful terms”.

“It is not an alliance on respectful terms. A section of senior Congress leaders have misguided Gandhi to pursue their own interest. She wanted an alliance on respectful terms just like us. The future of Congress in Bengal is in grave danger,” said Deepa Das Munshi, a Congress MP.

“A section of Congress leaders to serve their interest have done this thing. They have harmed the party,” said Shankar Singh, a state Congress leader.

Das Munshi accused the Trinamool of trying to “destroy” the Congress in the state.

“Those who talk of ‘Maa Mati Manush’ are trying to grab the land of the Congress. The Trinamool Congress is trying to finish the Congress in the state. The Congress leaders and workers of the state are angry and they want to resign,” said Das Munshi, wife of ailing Congress stalwart Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

Banerjee, however, denied that there was a difference or deadlock between the Congress and her party. She also released her party’s manifesto for the upcoming elections.
In a bid to shed its anti-industry image, the manifesto promised that industry and agriculture will go hand in hand, but with a human face.

The SUCI-C leadership, which had expressed its disappointment Friday over Trinamool’s unilaterally announcing its candidates and constituencies, Monday said it will announce its decision on the alliance at a press meet Tuesday.

In the 2009 general elections, the Trinamool and the Congress, along with the SUCI, decimated the Left Front that has been ruling the state since 1977. The alliance had bagged 26 seats of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats.

However, the two parties failed to clinch a seat-sharing deal during civic polls last year.

Voting for the West Bengal assembly will be held in six phases from April 18 to May 10. The results will be declared May 13.

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