Cong braces for seat-sharing talks with Mamata
With the controversy surrounding seat-sharing with DMK now settled, an emboldened Congress is all set to press for an "honourable alliance" with Trinamool Congress in poll-bound West Bengal.
An indication to this effect was available in the meeting of district presidents of West Bengal Congress in the Capital, where there was a clamour that the party should not hesitate from going it alone in the state if it does not get a "respectable" number of seats.
Sources said that a number of district chiefs of the party stressed that the Congress should get 98 seats, which is one third of the 294 seats in the state Assembly.
They are reported to have rejected the view that Congress is a "spent force" there and even contended that it was now emerging with greater vigour after a seven-year rule of the UPA at the Centre.
The sources in Congress said that the patch-up with DMK is a good news for the party as it would now be free to pursue "vigorous negotiations" with Mamata Banerjee's party for the Assembly polls in West Bengal.
"Had DMK with its 18 MPs withdrawn support from our government, it could have been difficult to do hard bargaining with Trinamool Congress which has 19 MPs in Lok Sabha as both of them put together could have endangered the existence of the government. Now we have greater leverage to talk seat sharing with the ally and put forth our demands openly," said a leader.
The chiefs of all 19 administrative and five organisational districts of the state Congress were present today in the meeting chaired by the newly appointed party in-charge for West Bengal affairs Shakeel Ahmed.
The meeting assessed the ground situation in the state to formulate a strategy for Assembly polls.
State PCC chief Manas Bhunia on Monday had a meeting with Ahmed to discuss the party strategy for the polls.
In the last Lok Sabha election, Congress had contested 14 Lok Sabha seats while Trinamool Congress had fielded candidates on 28 seats.
The sources said that the district chiefs of Malda, 24 North Paragana, North Dinajpur, Nadia, Murshidabad and Purullia among others made a strong plea for one-third seats for the Congress in the polls or else the party should contest independently.
There is a view in a section of the party that the Congress, which has 19 MLAs in the state assembly now, does not have to lose much in the state even if it contests alone.
However, senior party leaders are of the view that the issue should not be stretched too far as the party is still not that strong in West Bengal as it is in Tamil Nadu.
Earlier when Bhunia had given the proposal last month, there was strong reaction from Mamata Banerjee's party, which made it clear that it won't be able to give more than 40 to 45 seats to the Congress.
Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress has authorised union minister Mukul Roy and party's chief whip in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay to hold seat-sharing talks with Congress.