For INDIA, Mamata Banerjee may stay off Congress’s Bengal LS seats: TMC leaders | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

For INDIA, Mamata Banerjee may stay off Congress’s Bengal LS seats: TMC leaders

Dec 18, 2023 01:22 PM IST

A section of TMC leaders feel that Banerjee is formulating a strategy to stop BJP from taking advantage of any split in votes cast by the Muslim community

Kolkata: Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee may take a step towards seat sharing among INDIA coalition partners in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls by not fielding candidates from the two seats Congress currently holds in Bengal, senior TMC leaders said on Sunday as she left for Delhi where opposition parties will meet on December 19.

West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee. (ANI)
West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee. (ANI)

“I will not say anything right now on seat sharing. You will come to know after the December 19 meeting,” Banerjee said before boarding her flight from Kolkata.

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Held by Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury since 1999, the Berhampore seat is in Murshidabad district which has Bengal’s highest Muslim population of 66.28 %, according to the 2011 census.

In the adjoining Malda district - which has Bengal’s second-highest Muslim population of 51.27% - Congress MP Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, one of the two brothers of former Union cabinet minister A B A Ghani Khan Choudhury, has held the Malda South seat since 2009.

TMC fielded candidates from both seats in the past, leading to a gradual erosion in Congress votes in a region that it controlled since Independence.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior TMC leader said: “Although the Congress and CPI(M) have already said the INDIA model will not work out in Bengal because they are opposed to both TMC and BJP, Banerjee wants to convince the coalition leaders that BJP can be effectively countered only if the contests are bipolar. She has been saying since 2019 that 1:1 contest is the right formula.”

“From what we understood during a couple of internal party meetings, Banerjee may tell Sonia and Rahul Gandhi that TMC will break from the past by not contesting the Berhampore and Malda South seats. She may once again offer to support a Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha election since Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s tenure will end in April next year. He won from Bengal in 2018 with TMC’s support,” the TMC leader added.

That the Bengal chief minister is not willing to let a split in opposition votes help the National Democratic Alliance became apparent when she reacted to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) recent victory in the Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh state elections.

Also Read: No Central funds if Bengal doesn’t paint health centres saffron: Mamata Banerjee

While Bengal TMC leaders said BJP owed its success to the Congress’s internal problems and coalition partners were not responsible for the debacle, Banerjee did not mince words while speaking on the issue at the legislative assembly on December 4.

She said: “If seat sharing among INDIA coalition partners is done properly then BJP stands no chance next year. The Congress made some mistakes. We have to learn from it and prepare ourselves. Look at the figures. BJP won by thin margins. It happened because of split in (opposition) votes. There should have been proper seat sharing.”

A section of TMC leaders feel that Banerjee is formulating a strategy to stop BJP from taking advantage of any split in votes cast by the Muslim community, which the saffron camp sees as TMC’s vote bank.

Bengal’s Muslim population stood at 27.01 % during the 2011 census and is projected to have increased to around 30 % now. According to surveys done by TMC and BJP, swing in Muslim votes can influence poll results in at least 120 of Bengal’s 294 assembly segments.

Analysis of the 2019 Lok Sabha results in the state showed that a 17% drop in Left votes directly helped BJP secure 18 of 42 seats and a whopping 23 % rise in vote share.

Stunning poll analysts, BJP’s Khagen Murmu, a tribal candidate, wrested the Malda North Lok Sabha seat from TMC’s Mausam Noor by a margin of 84,000 votes. The results showed that Noor and Congress’s Isha Khan Chaudhury – the niece and nephew of A B A Ghani Khan Chaudhury – together polled 2,00,000 votes more than Murmu.

“Although Congress and Left could not win any assembly seat in 2021, the two parties still secured around 11 % votes across Bengal. This number may rise in 2024 because issues in Lok Sabha elections are quite different,” a TMC state functionary said.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury however told HT that Bengal Congress will not wait for Banerjee to offer an olive branch.

“I have said in public that Banerjee may even field her nephew against me. We will fight it out. TMC rigged the polls in more than 170 booths at Berhampore in 2019 but we still won. Congress is not dependent on TMC. We have to fight both Mamata Banerjee and BJP in Bengal,” Chowdhury said.

TMC leaders said Banerjee and her nephew, Abhishek Banerjee, the party’s national general secretary, will take the final call when the issue of seat sharing comes up.

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    Tanmay Chatterjee has spent more than three decades covering regional and national politics, internal security, intelligence, defence and corruption. He also plans and edits special features on subjects ranging from elections to festivals.

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