Trinamool Says It Will Contest All 42 Bengal Seats, Dashes Congress Hopes

The joy in the INDIA bloc over seat-sharing breakthroughs may prove to be short-lived, with the Trinamool Congress reiterating that it will contest all 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal. The party’s snub to the Congress comes after a wild swing in less than 24 hours, with sources in the alliance indicating on Thursday that seat-sharing talks were back on track and Trinamool sources telling NDTV earlier on Friday that the party could not find a third seat for the Congress “even with binoculars”. 

Derek O’Brien, Trinamool’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, said, “A few weeks ago, the TMC chairperson and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee stated that TMC is fighting all the 42 seats in Bengal. We are also in the fray in a few seats in Assam and the Tura Lok Sabha seat in Meghalaya. There is no change in this position.” 

The strong statement will come as a setback to the INDIA alliance as well as the Congress, which has finalised a seat-sharing deal with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and has also reportedly worked out an understanding with the AAP for Delhi, Gujarat, Goa and Haryana in the past few days. 

A pact in West Bengal would not only have been a major morale boost for the opposition bloc, which has seen some major exits of late, but would have also been important electorally because the state sends the third-highest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha. 

The indications on Thursday were that the Congress had scaled down its demand for seats in West Bengal to five and was looking to score a hat-trick with the Trinamool Congress after its successes with the Samajwadi Party and the AAP. To sweeten a potential deal, the Congress was reportedly willing to offer two seats to the Trinamool in Assam and one in Meghalaya. Congress sources had said that the talks were moving in a positive direction.

Come Friday morning, however, clear signals had begun to emerge from the Trinamool camp that the party was unwilling to budge from its initial offer of two seats to the Congress – the number won by the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. “Even with binoculars, we are unable to find a third seat for the Congress”, a Trinamool spokesperson had told NDTV.

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