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West Bengal: Congress to field candidates in all 294 constituencies
March 15, 2006 21:05 IST
Dashing Trinamool's hopes for last minute adjustment, the Congress in West Bengal Wednesday decided to put up candidates in all the 294 constituencies in the coming Assembly elections, asserting that Mamta Banerjee must leave the National Democratic Alliance to pave way for a secular opposition alliance without the Bharatiya Janata Party.
"We will field candidates in all the 294 seats. The Congress cannot go for any seat adjustment involving the BJP. It does not matter that the Trinamool has left 70 seats for us. It has to sever ties with the NDA first," West Bengal Pradesh Congress President Pranab Mukherjee told reporters during a Pradesh Congress Committee executive meeting.
The Congress decision put an end to all speculation after Banerjee released a list of 201 candidates for the Trinamool-led Gana Front, a conglomerate of 13 parties, leaving 70 seats for the Congress and 23 for its NDA partner, the BJP.
Though the Congress had earlier categorically stated that no alliance with the Trinamool was possible as long as it maintained relation with the BJP, Banerjee expressed hope, while announcing names of candidates on March 13 that the Congress would change its mind for the sake of building up a united opposition capable of scoring victory over the ruling Left Front.
However, without shutting doors for the Trinamool for good, Mukherjee said it was his party, which was waiting for the Trinamool to quit the NDA at the last moment to make possible an alliance between the two main opposition parties in the state.
"We also wanted an alliance with the Trinamool. But we gave a condition that there should be no truck with the BJP. Our party will consider seat adjustment with the Trinamool if it quits the NDA even before the last date for filing nominations," he said.
The party's executive Wednesday met for a marathon meeting to shortlist candidates and recommend the names to the All India Congress Committee for final selection tentatively on March 22.
Preceded by a meeting of the AICC Screening Committee on March 20, the Central Election Committee is supposed to meet the next day for selection of the nominees for the state.
Besides, Mukherjee, Union Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, veteran member of Parliament A B A Ghani Khan Chowdhury, Adhir Chowdhury, MP, and PCC working president Pradip Bhattacharya were among others, who participated in the meeting.
Meanwhile, unhappy with the 'unilateral' move of Banerjee to allocate seats, the BJP Wednesday referred the issue to the central leadership to ensure a respectable treatment with the party in seat sharing with the Trinamool.
Though admitting that a difficult situation had cropped up in the relationship between the two parties, BJP state president Tathagata Ray denied there was any threat to the NDA.
Though Banerjee had allocated 23 seats to the BJP, the party was bitter that it was not given a single seat of its choice. The party had expressed strong reservation against the manner in which Banerjee took the decision on allotment of seats when she was having talks with BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley.