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Congress hints it may fight Bengal polls alone

With a stalemate in its alliance with Trinamool Congress for West Bengal Assembly elections, Congress is preparing to contest all the 294 seats in the state.

delhi Updated: Apr 01, 2011 17:58 IST

With a stalemate in its alliance with Trinamool Congress for West Bengal Assembly elections, Congress is preparing to contest all the 294 seats in the state.

A final call in this regard will be taken by party chief Sonia Gandhi. A clear indication to this effect was given by senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed, who is in-charge of party affairs in West Bengal.

"We are preparing three lists - for 64 seats, 90 seats and all 294 seats a political party must have candidates for all seats," Ahmed told reporters here. At the same time, he said Congress wanted the alliance to take place.

"Congress still wants the alliance" and party leaders from West Bengal will abide by "whatever decision Congress high command takes in this regard," he said. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee had sprung a surprise on Congress on Friday by unilaterally announcing her party's decision to contest 228 seats.

Trinamool had made the announcement despite Congress seeking some more time as it could not reach a consensus on either the number of seats or the constituencies to be shared. Acknowledging the stalemate, Ahmed today said, "We still do not have consensus on the number of seats as well as the constituencies including some held by Congress. That's why there are differences in our perception."

Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee met Gandhi here this morning and discussed the issue.

Congress sources said Gandhi is strongly in favour of the alliance.

Ahmed said Congress will take its own time in taking a decision.

"Congress will take its time and will tell (you) when it takes a decision at its convenience....every party is free to prepare its strategy in its own way...we will take our time. There is still enough to consider," he said.

He pointed out that nomination papers for the first phase of polling could be filed till March 31.

Asked about options before Congress in West Bengal if its seat sharing talks with TC fail, Ahmed said, "there are a number of options" which he should not be discussing with the media.

"Of course the people of West Bengal wanted the Left to be defeated. We wanted to have an alliance with Trinamool Congress. We still want an alliance with that party. But after the unilateral announcement of Trinamool Congress candidates, the Congress leadership has to take a decision," he said.

"There is no question of anybody or any party blinking first," was his refrain, when asked which of the two would make the first move to save the alliance.

"Every party is free to announce the number of seats it wants to contest...She (Banerjee) has already announced candidates for 228 seats. Of course, she is free (to do so). Trinamool is her party," he said.

He said this when it was pointed out that Banerjee could announce candidates for more seats if Congress did not take a decision soon.

However, indicating that all is not lost, he said, "Every party wants to corner as many seats as possible. But when they sit at the negotiating table, the arrive at an amicable solution realising each other's strength and weakness."

On the issue of Trinamool fielding candidates in Assam, where Congress is seeking a third term, Ahmed declined to say anything.