Cong-Mamata poll meeting off
Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee and Shakeel Ahmed cancelled their much-awaited seat-sharing meeting with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Saturday, raising eyebrows in political circles. Ravik Bhattacharya reports.kolkata Updated: Mar 29, 2011 12:39 IST
Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee and Shakeel Ahmed cancelled their much-awaited seat-sharing meeting with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Saturday, raising eyebrows in political circles here.
Although both camps want an alliance to end the CPI(M)-led Left Front’s three-and-a-decade-long rule, seat-sharing is still a thorny issue. Banerjee — riding the post-Nandigram popularity wave — has offered only 58 of the total 294 seats, while the Congress wants 98.
What’s more, the Congress has been rattled by Banerjee’s latest pressure tactic: “If you want more in Bengal, give me more in Assam”. But the Congress cannot afford to let anyone share the pie in Assam, where it is hoping to enjoy the fruits of bringing the outlawed Ulfa back to the mainstream.
Banerjee threatens to contest in 110 of the 126 seats in Assam if there is no seat-sharing in Bengal. Senior Congress leaders, including Mukherjee and Ahmed, met in Delhi on Friday night and decided to cancel the meeting.
“We are working out things. The alliance and seat sharing will be worked out shortly. We both want to drive out the CPI(M),” said Ahmed, the AICC-in-charge of West Bengal.
Sources said the Congress cancelled the meeting since it needed more time to sort out the issues, while Banerjee was ready to announce her list in a day or two.
She may announce her list for Assam, too, on Monday.
But the Assam Congress has already told the AICC the Trinamool putting up candidates is unacceptable, since it has almost no standing in the state.
The TMC won only one seat in the 2001 elections in Assam. It also won a by-election in 2003 but drew a blank in 2006. In Bengal, the issue of choosing seats has also become important.
For instance, Congress wants the Kolkata Port seat, while the TMC has already decided on the candidate for the constituency.