The Congress’s poor performance in the civic polls in West Bengal has increased the party’s dependence on the Trinamool Congress for next year’s assembly polls.
The party is grappling with two fears now — one, after her stupendous performance, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee may not leave enough contestable assembly seats for it; and two, the exodus from the Congress to the Trinamool may intensify in the coming days.
The civic polls were a battle of prestige between Banerjee and Finance Minister and West Bengal Congress Committee chief Pranab Mukherjee, who failed to clinch a seat-sharing deal, so much so that the CPI(M) won in Mukherjee’s Jangipur Lok Sabha constituency.
During the campaign, the two not only hit out at the Left but also at each other. But post-results, they put the bitterness behind them: Mukherjee accepted the Congress’s failure and congratulated Bannerjee while General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi emphasised that the party’s alliance with the Trinamool stood “intact and will continue in future”. But to become a player, the Congress will have to win at least 50 assembly seats to ensure that the Trinamool depends on it for government formation.
Banerjee was gracious after her victory. While demanding early state polls, she also pitched for a “grand alliance”, a mahajot.
“I have faith in the Congress leadership. I want to keep up relations with the UPA government,” she said, alluding to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Congress leaders believe that Banerjee needs the Congress as much as they need her. “She will need an alliance with the Congress to become chief minister,” said Congress’ Pradesh returning officer Virendra Kataria.