Congress, CPI(M) seat-sharing talks likely after Left’s February 3 Bengal rally

Discussions for seat sharing between the Congress and the CPI(M) in West Bengal for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls are expected to start soon, sources in the two parties said Monday. They said the parties have already been holding informal parleys, but formal talks are likely to begin after the Feburary 3 rally of the CPI(M)-led Left Front at the Brigade Parade grounds here.

“There have been informal talks but formally the talks are yet to begin. It will begin only after Left Front’s rally at Brigade Parade ground. We are hopeful that all the issues can be resolved through talks between the two parties,” a senior state Congress leader said.

According to state Congress sources, the party is keen on fighting at least 18-20 seats including Raiganj and Murshidabad, which are the only two seats that CPI(M) won in the last elections in the state. These two seats are presently the bone of contention between the two parties, sources said.

Both the seats have been strongholds of the Congress for several years but CPI(M) managed to wrest them in a four-corner contest in 2014. Raiganj, which was a pocket borough of Congress stalwart Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, went to CPI(M)’s Mohammad Salim in 2014. He defeated Priya Ranjan’s wife and Congress nominee Deepa Dasmunshi by less than 2,000 votes.

Murshidabad was bagged by Badarroza Khan of CPI(M), who defeated Congress’ Abdul Mannan Hossain by about 18,000 votes. Hossain had triumphed on this seat in 2009, trouncing CPI(M)’s Anisur Rahman. “Any issue can be sorted out through talks. We are hopeful that every issue can be resolved. We can start at least state-level talks, however, the final decision will be taken by our party high-command,” Senior Congress leader and chairman of the coordination committee, Pradip Bhattacharya, told PTI.

Leaders of both the parties feel that a joint vote share would be able to put it in a formidable position to take on the TMC and the BJP in the upcoming elections. Currently, the TMC has 34 MPs in the state and the Congress has four.

The CPI(M) and the BJP have two Lok Sabha members each. Mamata Banerjee’s TMC got 39.3 per cent votes in Bengal in 2014. CPI(M) along with its Left Front partners — CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc — registered 29.5 per cent votes, while Congress got 9.6 per cent vote.

The BJP received 16.9 per cent votes in the state. The BJP over the last few years has outsmarted the CPI(M) and the Congress and emerged as the main opposition of the TMC in the state. Majority of the state Congress leaders are in favour of an informal seat-sharing arrangement with the CPI(M) for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

However, a Congress leader said a section of the party wants to go alone. Party sources said a final call on the issue would be taken by its national president Rahul Gandhi.

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