Congress announces 75 seats, seals informal pact with Left in Bengal

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi/ Kolkata
  • Updated: Mar 09, 2016 17:44 IST
CPI(M) state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra and Left Front chairman Biman Bose at a party meeting in Kolkata. (PTI File Photo)

The Congress announced on Tuesday a list of 75 seats it would contest in the West Bengal assembly polls next month, further cementing an informal electoral pact with the Left parties to take on a formidable Trinamool Congress.

Top Congress sources added the party may finally contest around 80 seats, effectively giving away the remaining 214 seats to the Left and other allies. It, however, didn’t name any candidates.

On Monday, the Left Front unveiled a first list of 116 names. The other candidates would be announced soon.

Senior Congress strategists in Delhi told HT there may not be joint campaigns with Left leaders but top Congress leaders including party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi will go to Bengal to seek votes.

This is the first time the two traditional rivals have buried the hatchet and come together to take on the Trinamool.

“The alliance is based on electoral compulsion. Workers want the alliance. After talks with the Left, we announced the names of 75 seats. These seats have been unanimously agreed upon,” said Adhir Chowdhury, Congress state president.

“We are looking to contest in 100 plus seats. The rest Left Front will contest. Talks are on to decide on the other seats.”

He said the Congress and Left Front should not beat around the bush about the alliance. But Left Front chairman Biman Bose made it clear on Monday there would be no joint campaign or sharing stage.

In Delhi, a Congress leader pointed out the party needs both the CPI(M) and the Trinamool at the national level to counter the Modi government that enjoys an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha.

“This is one of the key reasons why we can’t chose one party over another in Bengal,” he said.

While announcing the candidate list, the Congress leader made it clear that the Left would keep a distance with Congress at the grassroot level and only joint flag-less protests would take place in case of violence.

“We would be happy to go for a joint campaign. It was the workers who made us get into this alliance and it is the workers who are demanding that we walk together. Biman Bose may not like me, but it is the people demand that we should come together. Why the hide and seek?” said Chowdhury.

The Congress state president did not mince words and stated that party would campaign for Left candidates in the state.

“Where there are Left Front candidates and we have no candidates, we will campaign for them. However in Murshidabad, in one or two seats there may be a friendly fight. But we will talk about it with them (CPIM),” said Chowdhury.

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