Mamata Banerjee Rebuffs Congress’ Seat-Sharing Optimism In West Bengal

The Congress’ optimism of clinching a seat-sharing deal with the TMC to resolve the stalemate in the opposition bloc INDIA in West Bengal was spurned as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed her intention of uniting regional parties after elections to strategise government formation at the Centre.

Despite efforts by the Congress to reconcile with the TMC after a seat-sharing deadlock in West Bengal, its general secretary Jairam Ramesh remained hopeful about reaching a “mutually acceptable” arrangement with the TMC, despite the latter’s reluctance to concede seats in the state to the grand old party.

Addressing a government programme in Nadia district, Ms Banerjee asserted that while her party was keen on forming an alliance with the Congress for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the state, it was the grand old party that rejected her proposal.

“We wanted an alliance, but the Congress did not agree. They have joined forces with the CPI(M) to assist the BJP in the elections… We are the ones who can fight the BJP in the country,” she added.

Exuding confidence that BJP will lose the elections, Ms Banerjee said that after the polls, the TMC along with other regional parties would decide on the strategy to form the government at the Centre.

“If people are with us, then we promise, we will win Delhi (Lok Sabha elections). After the elections, we will do this (form the government) by taking all the regional parties together,” she said.

Accusing the Congress and Left of collaborating to aid the BJP in the upcoming elections, Ms Banerjee highlighted the failure of seat-sharing discussions with the Congress, attributing it to alleged interference from the Left.

“Just remember Bengal will show the path to win Delhi (Lok Sabha polls). We will win Delhi. We will fight alone in Bengal and defeat the BJP,” she asserted.

Her remarks followed her recent announcement that her party would contest all the 42 Lok Sabha seats alone in the state, significantly impacting the opposition bloc INDIA in West Bengal.

Without naming anyone, the stormy petrel of Bengal politics took potshots at Rahul Gandhi’s ongoing yatra, which is presently in Murshidabad, questioning, “Whom will you choose, the one who stays throughout the year, or the one who comes like a seasonal bird?”.

Earlier in 2010, during Rahul Gandhi’s visit to West Bengal, Ms Banerjee, then at the forefront of opposing the CPI(M) led Left Front regime, had equated him with the “cuckoo of spring” (Basanter Kokil), a proverb she used to dub the Congress leader as a politician who only visits during elections.

The Congress, while striving to appease Ms Banerjee, expressed hope for a seat-sharing deal with the TMC.

“In an alliance, there’s a give-and-take dynamics. We are hopeful of reaching a consensus on a joint seat-sharing formula in the state that satisfies all parties involved. Mamata ji has expressed her commitment to the INDIA bloc and we welcome this stance,” Ramesh said.

Despite Ms Banerjee’s declaration that she would not allocate any seats to the Congress, alleging its alignment with the CPI(M) to bolster BJP’s prospects in the state, Ramesh remained confident in getting the TMC along in the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal.

“I have heard about her statement, but it reflects her opinion, not the consensus of the alliance. Both the TMC and the Congress share the common goal of defeating the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,” Mr Ramesh remarked.

While the CPI(M), Congress, and TMC form part of the 27-party opposition bloc INDIA, in West Bengal, the grand old party has aligned with the CPI(M) against TMC and BJP.

In the 2019 elections, TMC secured 22 seats, Congress won two, and the BJP bagged 18 seats in the state.

Tensions escalated when TMC’s offer of two seats, based on Congress’ 2019 Lok Sabha election performance, was deemed insufficient.

The TMC had previously allied with the Congress in the 2001 assembly polls, 2009 Lok Sabha elections, and the 2011 assembly polls, leading to the ousting of the CPI(M)-led Left Front government of 34 years.

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