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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

Left’s u-turn in Bengal over seat-sharing derails poll pact with Cong

The Left Front had earlier said it would field candidates in four constituencies the Congress had won in 2014 but changed its mind on Wednesday.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Mar 20, 2019 21:25 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Left Front chairman Biman Bose’s 24-hour deadline to the Congress to withdraw its candidates in Raiganj and Murshidabad.which the Left won in 2014 has thrown a spanner in the seat sharing talks,
Left Front chairman Biman Bose’s 24-hour deadline to the Congress to withdraw its candidates in Raiganj and Murshidabad.which the Left won in 2014 has thrown a spanner in the seat sharing talks, (PTI FILE PHOTO)

A u-turn by the Left Front late Wednesday announcing two candidates in Lok Sabah seats held by the Congress has virtually drawn the curtains on the discussion for a poll pact in Bengal.

A day earlier the Left Front had announced 38 Lok Sabha candidates in Bengal but did not nominate candidates for the four seats which the Congress won in 2014, prompting the grand old party to reciprocate on Wednesday by announcing that it will not contest in five constituencies.

But Congress Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya, who announced the party’s decision on Wednesday, flayed Left Front chairman Biman Bose for setting a 24-hour deadline (that expired at 4:30 pm Wednesday) for the Congress to withdraw its candidates in the two seats the Left won in 2014 -- Raiganj and Murshidabad.

“We will not nominate candidates for Asansol, Diamond Harbour, Bolpur, Tamluk and Bishnupur,” said Bhattacharya, who justified the choice of constituencies on the Left’s strength compared to that of the Congress.

“The LF chairman virtually issued a whip by setting a 24-hour deadline for us to withdraw candidates in the two seats (of Raiganj and Murshidabad). We would not respond to his whip,” said Bhattacharya.

Late Wednesday evening, the Left Front announced candidates for Jangipur and Malda (North) Lok Sabha constituencies, both of which currently have sitting Congress MPs. According to a statement issued by Left Front chairman, Biman Bose, Zulfikar Ali and Bishwanath Ghosh, both from CPI (M), will contest from Jangipur and Malda (North) respectively.

Bose also made it clear that if Congress withdraws its candidates from Raigunj and Murshidabad, with sitting CPI (M) parliamentarians, the Left Front might change its stand. However, Left Front is yet to announce candidates for Baharampur and Malda (South) which have sitting Congress MPs.

.Also read: Lok Sabha elections 2019: Left Front can’t accept Congress’ unjustified demands on seat sharing in Bengal: CPI

Bhattacharya also rued the fact that though the Congress was insisting on a full- fledged alliance, the Left was insisting on just a seat-sharing agreement.

Left MLA Sujan Chakraborty indicated that they would not accept the Congress offer made on Wednesday.

Despite the reciprocal gestures, the possibility of a pact between the Congress and the Left was almost nil, said leaders of both camps on condition of anonymity.

The Congress has so far announced candidates for only 11 out of the 42 seats in the state so far.

The four seats held by Congress currently are Malda (north), Malda (South), Jangipur and Baharampur.

Incidentally, in 2014 Lok Sabha polls the Congress got only 1.52% votes in Tamluk, 2.12% in Bishnupur, 3.59% in Bolpur, 4.24% in Asansol and 5% in Diamond Harbour.

During discussions with the Congress, the LF maintained that they won’t nominate candidates for the four seats that Congress won, while the Congress should reciprocate with staying away from the two seats that the Left secured in 2014.

“I do not think that there is a possibility of reconsidering the decision on Raigunj and Murshidabad. The candidates for these two seats have already been announced by our party high command,” said Bhattacharya.

Bitter opponents for decades, the desperation to retain an eroding political base has brought the LF and Congress close in the state.

In 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the LF won 43.3% and 29.95% of the votes respectively. The vote share of the Congress went down from 13.45% (2009) to 9.69% (in 2014).

In 2011 assembly polls, the LF won 40.42% of the votes that declined to 25.69% in the 2016 assembly polls. In these two elections the Congress’ vote share were 9.09% (2011) and 12.25% (2016) respectively.

First Published: Mar 20, 2019 21:09 IST

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