Cong may heed Bengal advice, ally with TMC

NEW DELHI : The Congress is working out an electoral alliance once again with the Trinamul Congress (TMC) of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the West Bengal Assembly elections in March-April.

It is exploring similar alliance with any big party in other states of Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry while it already heads a ruling coalition in Kerala.

Contrary to its move to align with the TMC, the state Congress leadership has been pestering the High Command to explore an alliance with the left parties. Any such possibility was, however, ruled out by CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechuri who emphatically stated in an interview to a daily on Monday that “there is not going to be any front or alliance with the Congress Party.”

The Congress and the TMC had contested the last Bengal elections in 2011 in alliance and the Congress had won 42 of the 65 seats it contested in the House of 294. Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi broached the alliance issue with Mamata last month when she was in Delhi while Sonia Gandhi has also given a positive signal for the alliance, a top party leader said.

He said: “It is our Kerala compulsion that we cannot go with the Left in Bengal. Our principal challengers in Kerala are the Left combine and Kerala is also slated to hold elections for a 140-member House at the same time as Bengal. Moreover, any truck with the Left would mean pushing away a powerful leader like Mamata into the lap of Narendra Modi at a critical juncture when our primary goal is to fight him and not leave space that strengthens him in any way.”

The Congress would press for 80 to 100 seats this time citing its last Assembly poll performance of winning 65% of the seats it contested. Mamata, who was once in the Congress until breaking out to launch the TMC, is a hard bargainer and hence she may delay the seat arrangement till close to the elections likely in March or April, the Congress leader said.

“The alliance is almost certain but the seats have not been discussed as yet. We are also pursuing our state leaders who are averse to have any truck with Mamata to better reduce aggressive postures against her government to prepare for discussions on the seats,” the leader said.

The Congress leadership felt it necessary in view of the recent “positive” posturing by Mamata. The TMC, which showed nonchalance towards the Congress after its decimation in the Lok Sabha elections, did a somersault in the just concluded winter session of Parliament by offering unsolicited support to the Congress on every issue.

Sonia was particularly moved by TMC’’s attitude on the issue of political vendetta, raised by the Congress in the context of the National Herald case as it not only extended support but also joined the Congress in boycotting proceedings in the Lok Sabha. Sources in the Congress claimed that Sonia and Rahul have mended their relations with Mamata.

While the West Bengal unit of the Congress is stridently opposed to allying with TMC, it is not so in case of the sitting MLAs of Congress who feel Mamata is their best bet to get re-elected if they contest again.

The understanding in Delhi is that an alliance with TMC is a sure formula for a clean sweep in Bengal unlike the uncertainties in a tacit deal with the Left.

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