There are practical hurdles: Congress on CPI-M overtures in Bengal

Indo Asian News Service

Kolkata, March 5 (IANS) Giving a guarded response to the CPI-M's announcement that it would avoid a mutual contest in the six West Bengal Lok Sabha seats currently held by it and the Congress, the state Congress on Monday said while it saw no reason to "discourage" them, there were practical hurdles which needed to be sorted out first.

Former state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya, who has been playing a key role in the ongoing seat adjustment discussions with the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), hoped that a further round of discussions would help the two parties to come to some decision.

"I know what the CPI-M has said. I see no reason to discourage the CPI-M. But there are difficulties we are facing in coming to an adjustment. These practical hurdles needed to be removed first," Bhattacharya, a Rajya Sabha member, told IANS.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress won four and the Left Front major CPI-M bagged two of the 42 seats in the state.

Ever since the two parties began seat-sharing talks for the coming general elections, a major problem has been the two seats - Raiganj and Murshidabad - which were won by the CPI-M five years back.

The Congress, which considers Raiganj as its pocket borough, having won it six times out of the last nine polls, has been adamant on contesting it.

Moreover, Congress leader Deepa Dasmunsi, who won the seat in 2009 but lost out narrowly to CPI-M's Mohammed Salim in 2014, has been keen on trying her luck again from the constituency.

Similarly, former state Congress chief and Murshidabad district stalwart Adhir Chowdhury wants the party to put up a candidate for the Murshidabad seat, which his party had won in 2004 and 2009.

The CPI-M, on the other hand, from the start of the negotiations has been harping on the formula of the two parties putting up candidates in the seats they won last time.

The Marxists thus were ready to back the Congress in Baharampur, Jangipur, North Malda and South Malda - from where it won in 2014, though North Malda MP Mousam Noor switched to the Trinamool Congress a few days back.

In fact, the CPI-M persuaded Left Front partner Revolutionary Socialist Party to opt out of the contest from its traditional constituency Baharampur, which has been electing Chowdhury since 1999.

State Congress president Somen Mitra said both Congress and the Left Front need to come together.

"Both need the alliance. Unless they join hands with the Congress, the Left Front will not be able to open their account in the state this time."

Mitra conceded that Murshidabad and Raiganj were the problem seats.

He said the Congress has made it clear to the Marxists that they wanted to fight from both the seats. "But they have not agreed to far."

Late in the night, the state Congress came out with a statement saying it had "started discussion with great hope with the Left parties regarding seat adjustment for the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal."

However, the statement mentioned that "constituency issues are involved while we are in discussion.

"Certain geographies have been historically Congress bastions and we find it difficult to ignore our supporters in such constituencies. As a result we are yet to arrive at a conclusion."

The party said it had "taken note" of the statement by the CPI-M Central Committee, and said "after further negotiation," the final recommendation would be submitted to AICC and the Congress President shortly.

--IANS

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