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Pranab discusses seat sharing with WB Cong leaders

March 09, 2011 02:07 IST

Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday night had a meeting with party MPs, district presidents, Pradesh Congress Committee chief and Congress Legislature Party leader of West Bengal to discuss the strategy for the upcoming assembly polls in the state.

In the meeting over dinner that lasted for more than two hours, most of the state leaders made it clear that the party should not yield on the issue of seat sharing with the Trinamool Congress.

Mukherjee is learnt to have stated that while he fully understood the aspirations of the PCC, the alliance at the Centre, too, has to be kept in mind, sources said.

A view emerged in the meeting that Congress should get both a respectable number of seats as well quality seats based on winnability situations and tough seats which are strongholds of Communist Party of India-Marxist should be shared by both the alliance partners.

Mukherjee is also learnt to have concurred with the view. Party MPs Deepa Dashmunshi and A H Khan Choudhury said that Trinamool Congress should not be given any assembly seat in their Parliamentary constituencies Rajganj and Malda arguing that Congress is very strong there, the sources said.

There was also a complaint that Trinamool Congress leaders attack Congress publicly on many occasions in the state and this should stop.

Others who attended the meeting included party MPs Adhir Ranjan Choudhury and Mausam Noor, CWC member in-charge for West Bengal affairs Shakeel Ahmed, PCC chief Manas Bhunia and CLP leader Abu Hena along with all the district presidents.

Earlier in the day, Ahmed had chaired a meeting of the district presidents of West Bengal Congress where also the party leaders said that it should not hesitate from going it alone in the state if it does not get a "respectable" number of seats.

Sources said that a number of district chiefs of the party stressed that the Congress should get 98 seats, which is one third of the 294 seats in the state assembly.

Sources in the Congress said that the patch-up with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is a good news for the party as it would now be free to pursue "vigorous negotiations" with Mamata Banerjee's party.

"Had DMK with its 18 MPs withdrawn support from our government, it could have been difficult to do hard bargaining with Trinamool Congress which has 19 MPs in Lok Sabha, as both of them put together could have endangered the existence of the government. Now we have greater leverage to talk seat sharing with the ally and put forth our demands openly," said a leader.

The chiefs of all 19 administrative and five organisational districts of the state Congress were present on Tuesday in the meeting, which assessed the ground situation in the state to formulate a strategy for the assembly polls.

State PCC chief Manas Bhunia on Monday had a meeting with Ahmed to discuss the party's strategy for the polls. In the last Lok Sabha election, Congress had contested 14 Lok Sabha seats while Trinamool Congress had fielded candidates on 28 seats.

The sources said that the district chiefs of Malda, 24 North Paragana, North Dinajpur, Nadia, Murshidabad and Purullia among others made a strong plea for one-third seats for the Congress in the polls or else the party should contest independently.

There is a view in a section of the party that the Congress, which has 19 MLAs in the state assembly now, does not have to lose much in the state even if it contests alone.

However, senior party leaders are of the view that the issue should not be stretched too far as the party is still not that strong in West Bengal as it is in Tamil Nadu.

Earlier, when Bhunia had given the proposal last month, there was a strong reaction from the Trinamool Congress, which made it clear that it won't be able to give more than 40 to 45 seats to the Congress.

Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress has authorised Union Minister Mukul Roy and party's chief whip in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay to hold seat-sharing talks with Congress.

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