After stalling the key policy issues of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress is likely to dampen the Congress's hopes of getting a Rajya Sabha member from West Bengal.
Being a minority in the Rajya Sabha, the UPA had failed to pass several key bills, including the Lokpal Bill, in the last Parliament session.
Five seats of the Upper House from Bengal will go to the polls on March 30. The Congress aspires to win just one seat, and that too if it gets extra votes from its allies. Though Banerjee's party is clearly in a position to win three seats, Trinamool general secretary Mukul Roy on Saturday said the party will strive to win four. This effectively means that the Trinamool will not help the Congress out with spare votes from its MLAs.
"According to our calculations, we can win four seats. So, we will try to win all four of them, and will not field candidates for just three seats," Roy said. Meanwhile, the Congress is trying to accomplish a last-minute patch-up with its ally. The party's general secretary, Shakeel Ahmed, met Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee in this regard on Saturday.
As per the Assembly arithmetic, each candidate has to secure the support of at least 49 MLAs for a straight win in Bengal for this round of the biennial elections. The Congress, which has 42 MLAs, needs at least seven additional votes from outside. Trinamool has 185 MLAs, and even after electing its three candidates, it will have 38 votes left in its kitty.
Though the Congress can try to get extra votes from the Left parties, which have 67 MLAs, the party is hesitant in this regard because such a move may damage its political prospects in the long run. “If Trinamool decides to go for the fourth seat, there will be a contest between the two parties,” said a top Congress leader.
To further hit the Congress base, the Trinamool may grant a ticket to a close relative of late Congress stalwart Ghani Khan Chowdhury for the Rajya Sabha. While Chowdhury's niece is the Youth Congress president of the state, Banerjee is trying to win over another section of the family through this move. Trinamool is also expected to grant a ticket to a prominent theatre personality, among others.