The political wrangling between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress over seat-sharing for West Bengal assembly elections ended on Monday within hours of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s return from London.
Under the new arrangement, the Congress will contest from 65 of the total 294 seats in Bengal assembly, below its demand for 90 and one more than what the Trinamool had offered it last week. The Trinamool will fight in 229 seats out of which it will give two to SUCI.
Gandhi's intervention brought the alliance back from the brink of collapse after Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee on Friday unilaterally released a list of 228 candidates and left 64 for the Congress. Banerjee had asked the Congress to declare its list of 64 candidates by Monday or else she would announce her nominees on those seats as well.
Gandhi discussed the issue with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and her political secretary Ahmed Patel and it was decided that all hurdles in finalising the deal would be cleared immediately.
The Congress leadership was not in favour of ending the alliance with Trinamool given that the people of West Bengal "are looking for a change and want an end to 34 years of misrule of the CPM-led Left Front".
The Trinamool offer was accepted with minor changes in the larger interests even if it was a sign of weaker position for the Congress, sources said.
After the meeting, Mukherjee telephoned Banerjee and the deal was struck.
Announcing the pact, Congress in charge of Bengal Shakeel Ahmed said: "An alliance has been finalised with the Trinamool Congress. We appeal to the people of West Bengal and all Congressmen to work for the success of the alliance."
Banerjee too was upbeat. "We have an alliance in New Delhi. Now it is big news that we have cracked the alliance in Bengal too. Everybody will work for the alliance," she said in Kolkata.