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CPM Central Committee Approves Seat Sharing Formula with Congress in Bengal For 2019 LS Polls


Kolkata: Putting an end to a long-standing speculation, the Central Committee of the CPI (M) finally put its seal of approval on the wishes of the party’s state wing to forge a seat sharing arrangement with the Congress in West Bengal for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to simultaneously take on the BJP and the Trinamool Congress.

The decision was taken despite the Congress’s perceptible key role in the so-called “Mahagatbandhan” of opposition parties in the run-up to the polls of which Trinamool Supremo Mamata Banerjee is a crucial part.

“In West Bengal, the Central Committee had earlier decided that the CPI(M) will adopt suitable tactics to ensure the maximization of the pooling of anti-BJP, anti-TMC votes. In accordance with this, the CPI (M) proposes no mutual contest in the present six sitting Lok Sabha seats, currently held by the Congress and the Left Front,” a statement from the party’s Central Committee, which is meeting in Delhi on 4-5 March, read.

“The Left Front is meeting on March 8 to finalise the other seats,” the statement added.
The Bengal Pradesh Congress was, however, not very forthcoming on whether it was willing to forego its demand for the Raigunj and Murshidabad seats.

Of the 42 seats up for grabs in the state, in the 2014 general elections the CPI(M) managed to win just two seats from Bengal, that of Raigunj and Murshidabad, in a continual slide from its earlier tally of 15 seats in 2009. The Congress won four seats in 2014 – Berhampore, Jangipur, Malda Uttar and Malda Dakshin – which was two seats less than its previous tally. The ruling Trinamool Congress registered a thumping victory by bagging 34 out of those 42 seats. The BJP had to remain satisfied with two seats.

But things have drastically changed in the political environs of the state since then with the BJP firmly emerging as the principal challenger to Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, relegating both the Congress and the Left to the periphery.

It was in this context that the CPI (M) state unit, reportedly, drew up a compromise formula of contesting in just 22 seats this time which included the two winning seats. It plans to leave 10 seats for the other Left Front partners and the remaining 10 for the Congress. Complications surfaced when Congress expressed its desire to field candidates in both Raigunj and Murshidabad leading to hectic negotiations between leaders of both parties.

The Bengal Pradesh Congress was, however, not very forthcoming on whether it was willing to forego its demand for the Raigunj and Murshidabad seats.

In a statement issued in response to the CPI(M)’s announcement, the state unit of the Congress stated: “Certain geographies have been historically Congress bastions and we find it difficult to ignore our supporters in such constituencies. As a result we are yet to arrive at a conclusion. We have taken note of the statement by the CPI(M) Central Committee. After further negotiation, we intend to submit our final recommendation to AICC and the Congress president shortly”.

Earlier, the Somen Mitra-led West Bengal Pradesh Congress camp had opposed in no uncertain terms before the party’s High Command any chances of a tie-up with the Trinamool and expressed their preference for a pre-poll understanding with the Left instead. The party’s bitter experience of violence and intimidation from the state’s ruling dispensation, especially at the level of grass roots rank and file, was cited as reason behind the objection. All opposition parties in the state had unanimously cried foul against the Trinamool Congress during the recently concluded Panchayat polls.

Observers feel that the seat adjustment arrangement between one time arch rivals in the state is clearly a desperate bid from both camps to amass non-TMC, non-BJP votes and stay politically relevant. It would be interesting to note how, if this arrangement finally works out, the Trinamool Congress decides to handle its political ambitions outside Bengal where the Congress may have strong presence given Mamata’s “one-on-one fight formula against the BJP” and her obligations towards the opposition front.

Meanwhile, besides Bengal, the CPI(M) also announced its pre-poll strategy in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Bihar and Odisha. The party announced that it was in seat sharing talks with the DMK in Tamil Nadu and with the NCP in Maharashtra for the Dindori or Palghar seats. While talks were also on with the RJD in Bihar for the Ujiarpur seat, the party would contest from Bhubaneswar in Odisha, the Central Committee announced.

| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi

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