Congress not to contest against Mamata, brightens alliance hope (Lead)

March 1st, 2009 - 10:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, March 1 (IANS) Setting the stage for seat adjustment with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the coming Lok Sabha polls, the Congress’ West Bengal unit Sunday decided not to field any candidate against TMC chief Mamata Banerjee in the Kolkata South seat.
However, discontent surfaced in the Congress over the possible alliance, with a section of leaders demanding Trinamool leaders, including Banerjee, either withdraw their disparaging comments against the state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee or apologise.

Beginning the parleys for clinching an alliance with the Trinamool, the Pradesh Congress leaders sat with the party’s all India general secretary in-charge of the state K. Keshava Rao, who air-dashed to the city Sunday morning.

“The Pradesh Election Committee (PEC) accepted Mukherjee’s proposal not to field any candidate against Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata South,” state Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya told IANS.

“The proposal has now been recommended to the All India Congress Committee (AICC) for the final approval,” he said, on the day a Trinamool Congress candidate - backed by the Congress - wrested the Bishnupur (West) assembly constituency from the ruling communists in a by-poll with a huge margin of over 30,000.

The CPI-M-led Left Front has been ruling the state uninterruptedly since 1977.

Welcoming the Congress’ decision, Banerjee said she wanted the alliance to cover the entire state.

“I am grateful to them (Congress) for supporting me in Kolkata South. But we want a state-wide alliance,” Banerjee told reporters at her residence.

It was a day of fast-paced drama that saw the two sides sending mixed vibes to each other on a probable alliance.

While the state Congress pitched for an “honourable seat adjustment” with the Trinamool, Congress legislator Deepa Dasmunsi accused Banerjee and her lieutenants of making disparaging remarks about Mukherjee.

“They are humiliating our state president (Pranad Mukherjee) publicly and before the media. And at the same time they are keeping the door open for an alliance. Doesn’t this smack of double standards?” she said.

“They lack courtesy. They should either withdraw the remarks or apologise,” Dasmunsi said.

Soon after Dasmunsi’s comment, Banerjee told the media persons: “Congress is a separate political party. It’s their decision whether they want seat adjustment or not. If you ask me, we are game. We want to defeat the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).”

On speculation that the Congress had demanded 16 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state but the Trinamool was prepared to part with only 12, Rao indicated that apart from a good number of seats, the Congress has also set its sights on bagging winnable constituencies.

“We believe quality and quantity both are needed,” he said.

The Congress had won six seats in the last Lok Sabha polls in 2004, while the Trinamool had to rest content with only the Kolkata South constituency.

In 2001 state assembly poll, the Congress and Trinamool had tied up, which came a cropper following widespread rumbling in both parties over the hurriedly-stitched alliance.

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