West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Friday announced that his party will fight the upcoming panchayat elections in the state in an alliance with the Communist Party of India-Marxist.
Addressing a press conference, Chowdhury said he has directed Congress workers to extend all cooperation to the CPI-M in fighting the July 8 polls.
"The Congress and the CPI-M will fight the panchayat elections together. We have already directed our party workers to extend all forms of support to the CPI-M in this regard," he said.
Chowdhury's comments came as the submission of nominations for the elections to around 75,000 seats in the three-tier Panchayati Raj system began. It will continue till June 15.
The CPI-M-led Left Front and the Congress fought the 2016 and 2021 assembly elections in West Bengal together, besides the Tripura polls earlier this year.
Since then the two parties have also collaborated in moves to foster opposition unity.
Earlier in the day, Chowdhury moved the Calcutta high court, demanding that nominations for panchayat polls be allowed to be filed online, besides urging for the deployment of central forces.
The court observed that the time given for filing nominations was prima facie inadequate and sought the State Election Commission's response on June 12.
"The people of West Bengal can cast their votes only if central forces are deployed. And because of their presence, polling was possible in the Sagardighi by-elections. That is why the TMC lost there and the Congress won," Chowdhury said.
Targetting Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, he said, "If you are not scared and if you are keen on organising the panchayat election, then why are you reluctant on giving permission for the deployment of central forces?"
He also said that more time should be given for the filing of nominations.
"Didi (Mamata Banerjee) must file an affidavit in the Calcutta high court declaring that she will ensure free and fair polls. We are not trying to escape the elections but want it to take place peacefully," he said.
"We remember the 2018 panchayat polls when around 34 per cent of the population could not cast their votes because of terror. The TMC won in at least 20,000 seats without any contest as people could not file nominations. Around 60-70 people were murdered," he alleged.