Cong, LF finalise seat sharing in 193 seats in WB, decision on rest 101 later

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(With additional inputs) Kolkata, Jan 28 (PTI) The Congress and Left Front on Thursday finalised sharing of 193 seats of the total 294 in West Bengal assembly with the Left parties getting the lion's share of 101 seats.

Announcing the poll deal, state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury Thursday said the party will contest in 92 seats and the decision on the rest 101 will be taken at a later date.

The 193 seats for which the seat sharing was announced include the 77 seats that Congress and the Left had won in the 2016 state assembly polls, Chowdhury told reporters at a joint press conference along with Left Front Chairman Biman Bose.

A second round of talks was held at Bidhan Bhavan, the state Congress headquarters in the city during the day. Senior leaders of both Congress and Left Front were present at the meeting.

'Today we have sealed our alliance in 193 seats. In the next few days we will settle the seat sharing in the remaining 101 seats. Apart from the 77 seats, which were already decided on Monday, it was decided that Congress will contest in another 48 seats and the LF in 68 more seats in the coming state poll,' Chowdhury said.

In 2016 out of the 77 won by the alliance the Congress had bagged 44 seats and the LF 33. On Monday it was decided that both the parties will fight in the respective seats they had won in the last state assembly election.

Bose claimed the Left FrontCongress alliance will be a ''game changer'' in the assembly polls.

''The Congress and Left Front alliance will put up a strong fight against the ruling Trinamool Congress and BJP who are promoting communal politics in the state. The peace loving people of the state are looking for an alternative and we will provide that alternative,'' Bose, who is also a CPI(M) Politburo member, said.

Chowdhury said that discussions were also held on joint campaigning and a joint public rally is likely to be held in February end.

According to sources in the Left parties and the Congress, the poll understandng on 193 seats has come as a relief for both sides as discussions on specific constituencies had reached a deadlock.

'Apart from the 77 seats that both the parties had won last time, the seat sharing formula was based on second and third positions in the last assembly polls. This time special stress will be given in ensuring the transfer of votes between both the parties. In 2016, we had successfully transferred our votes, but the Congress could not,'' a senior Left leader said.

A senior Congress functionary said that the party taking a cue from its performance in the recent Bihar polls where it bagged 18 out of the 70 seats it contested, has decided to focus on seats where it has good presence and a considerable vote share.

''We won't go for number of seats but on winnability,'' he said.

Reacting to the Left and Congress clinching the seat-sharing deal, state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee said the alliance will meet the same fate as in 2016 assembly polls.

'Last time we (TMC) had defeated this alliance. This time too we will defeat it and the BJP. The people of Bengal have full faith in Mamata Banerjee,' Chatterjee, also secretary general of TMC, said.

Reacting to the development, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said both Congress and the Left Front are a ''spent force'' in Bengal.

'Both the Left and Congress have lost their credibility in Bengal politics. It hardly matters whether they forge an alliance or not,' he said.

According to political observers, the Left-Congress alliance may not win the elections but will act as a catalyst in the victory or defeat of TMC or BJP.

''In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls a four-cornered contest had helped BJP to emerge as the main opposition in West Bengal as the Left Front and Congress had fought separately. In the coming assembly poll, the performance of the Left Front and the Congress alliance will be very crucial,'' political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said.

. 'If the alliance manages to cut into the opposition votes, then it will benefit TMC. And if it cuts into TMC's Muslim vote base, it will benefit BJP. If the alliance performs well, the TMC is likely to benefit most. If it fails to evoke any response then it will help the BJP,'' he said.

After winning 77 seats in the 2016 state polls, the alliance had broken after the CPI(M)-led Left Front walked away from Congress.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the alliance fell apart as the parties were unable to reach an agreement on seat sharing.

After Congress's dismal performance in the general election when it secured only two Lok Sabha seats and the CPI(M) failed to even open its account, the parties decided to come together to fight the 2021 assembly polls.

Elections to the state assembly are likely to be held in April-May this year. PTI PNT KK KK KK