Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's seat offer is unacceptable to the Congress. With Banerjee playing hard to get, the Congress may consider going alone in West Bengal. Renu Mittal reports.
The Congress-Trinamool Congress talks on seat sharing for the ensuing Assembly elections in West Bengal have hit a roadblock with both sides not ready to budge raising questions on the alliance.
Both parties are putting pressure hoping that the other will give in with Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress believing that it will sweep the state. The Congress feels they have nothing to lose in the fray whether they form an alliance or not.
While Congress leaders involved in the negotiations with Banerjee candidly admit they are unhappy with both the quantity and quality of seats being offered by the Trinamool leader, a number of Trinamool members of Parliament camping in New Delhi are not too pleased either.
They feel that the grassroot workers of the party are being denied tickets and instead a large number of outsiders are being accommodated. Many of them are also not being consulted on the distribution of tickets in the assembly constituencies falling under their parliamentary seat, say sources.
Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee returned to Delhi on Wednesday afternoon after an "inconclusive meeting" with Banerjee in Kolkata on Tuesday night. The Trinamool chief reportedly offered the Congress 62 seats and is not even willing to accommodate all its sitting members of Legislative Assembly. She has also denied giving the Kolkata seat of Ram Pyare Ram, a seven-time Congress MLA.
Mukherjee is reported to have spoken to Congress President Sonia Gandhi over the telephone as she is in London and is learnt to have called Banerjee from New Delhi. The finance minister is working overtime to strike a deal with the Trinamool. Amid this, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi has sent a list of 30 Youth Congress leaders to Mukherjee asking him to ensure that they are giving tickets to contest the polls.
A senior leader said that Banerjee has been convinced by her followers that even if Trinamool goes alone in the West Bengal polls the results will be in a favour. "The situation however is not as optimistic as Mamata would like to believe. The Trinamool-Congress alliance can cross the 200 mark, leaving the Left behind but if Mamata fights alone she could be short of at least 25 seats if not more. The ball would then be in the Congress's court depending if they want to support the Trinamool or the Left to form a government in the state. Keeping its options open and then striking the best deal in the post-election scenario may work to the advantage of the Congress," he said.
There is also dissent within the Trinamool. "Banerjee is bringing in bureaucrats who have been close to the Left Front and this has created a great deal of disquiet within the party ranks," said a Trinamool MP, who has stayed put in Delhi.
According to the MPs, their recommendations on who should contest from their areas are being completely ignored with the party leadership looking at accommodating outsiders, film stars, bureaucrats, technocrats and "many from the dance and drama division". "This at the expense of those who have sweated and toiled for the party against the Left Front regime," they said.
There are also reports that some of Banerjee's party men are seriously considering quitting and are in touch with the Congress.
With the assembly elections inching closer and Banerjee in a tearing hurry to race ahead, sources say that unless the issues between the Congress and Trinamool are sorted out quickly, it may well turn out to be tight battle in West Bengal.