Congress, Trinamool seal pact, Mamata announces 27 candidates


New Delhi/Kolkata : In a move that could spell trouble for West Bengal’s ruling Left Front, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress Thursday clinched a seat-sharing deal in the state for the Lok Sabha elections.

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The Congress will contest from 14 of the state’s 42 constituencies, leaving the rest for Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress.

“We have reached a broad understanding with the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal for seat sharing,” the Congress’ West Bengal in-charge Keshava Rao told reporters in New Delhi. He also named the seats.

The Congress seats include those represented by its six sitting MPs, including External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who has been in hospital in a state of coma for months.

Speaking of the alliance, Rao said: “The friendship is with a larger perspective to face and defeat the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which has shattered the economy and progress of the state.”

The CPI-M-led Left Front has been ruling the state uninterruptedly since 1977.

Asked if the Congress would have any truck with the Left parties after the elections, party spokesperson Manish Tewari said: “The elections have been announced. We have gone for alliances with like-minded parties and we are confident of forming the government.”

The deal was thrashed out 11 days after state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee and Trinamool president Banerjee announced at a late night meeting March 1 that the two parties will fight the polls together.

The Trinamool announced a list of 27 candidates, including five women and four minority community members.

Declaring the names at a media conference at her residence in south Kolkata Thursday evening, Banerjee said she had left the Jaynagar seat in South 24 Parganas to the ally Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI).

Seemingly happy after sealing the deal with the Congress, two days after the pact seemed to have run into rough weather following hard bargaining over seats, Banerjee said: “It’s a fight for restoring democracy against the dictatorship of the CPI-M in the state. We thank the Congress for being with us in the fight against the CPI-M.

“The people of Bengal wanted us to fight the polls unitedly. We will honour the hopes, and expectations of the people,” she said.

Banerjee said she will meet Mukherjee here March 15 to discuss the modalities of joint campaign. She, however, said the two parties will have separate manifestos, as the Congress document will be released nationally.

The Trinamool’s list of 27 candidates includes five women, which is three more than the Left Front (LF) that has fielded only two women – Jyotirmoyee Sikdar and Susmita Bauri.

The Trinamool also named five Muslims and seven Scheduled Castes candidates, besides a Scheduled Tribes nominee.

Senior Trinamool leader and sitting legislator Saugata Roy would contest from Dumdum seat against sitting CPI-M Lok Sabha member Amitava Nandi.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded former central minister Tapan Sikdar, who rejoined the party last week, from the constituency. Sikdar has won the seat twice with support from the Trinamool, which was then a BJP ally.

Trinamool leader Dinesh Trivedi, one of the principal architects of the pact with the Congress, will contest from Barrackpore. The party’s new face, journalist-turned-singer-turned-politician Kabir Suman will be in fray from Jadavpur against CPI-M MP Sujan Chakraborty.

Banerjee herself will fight the polls from Kolkata South against her old foe Robin Deb of the CPI-M.

Actress Shatabdi Roy will contest from Birbhum. Leading Bengali film star Tapas Pal will try his luck from Krishnanagar against incumbent MP and former Asian Games gold-winning athlete Jyotirmoyee Sikdar of the CPI-M.

In the Kolkata North constituency, Trinamool leader Sudip Bandhopadhyay will lock horns with CPI-M candidate and MP Mohammed Salim. Somen Mitra, who quit the Congress and floated the Progressive Indira Congress last year, will fight his maiden Lok Sabha battle from Diamond Harbour on a Trinamool ticket.

In East Midnapore district, Tamluk, which includes trouble-torn Nandigram, will see Trinamool’s Subhendu Adhikari talking on formidable CPI-M MP Laxman Seth.

Subhendu’s father Sisir Adikari will contest from the neighbouring Contai against CPI-M candidate Prasanta Pradhan.

The elections in the state will be held April 30, May 7 and May 13.