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Ally ups ante on civic poll seat sharing

Malda, March 31: The relationship between the Congress and the Trinamul Congress is getting murkier with the latter demanding more seats to contest the 25-ward Englishbazar municipality elections.

Trinamul had wanted to field candidates in eight wards, but yesterday it demanded four more seats from the Congress.

The fresh demand forced Malda district Congress president Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury to hold a closed-door meeting with his counterpart in Trinamul Gautam Chakrabarty last evening.

Abu Hashem and Chakrabarty were ensconced in a room at the Circuit House and were later joined by other Congress leaders, including MLA Sabitri Mitra.

This was the first time that the district Congress president held a meeting outside Kotwali Bhavan. Earlier, when A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury was the district Congress president, all meetings used to be held at Kotwali. Observers feel Abu Hashem wanted to send a signal to the ally by holding the meeting at a neutral venue.

While both the leaders did not declare a seat-sharing formula, it is reliably known that Chakrabarty had demanded that the Trinamul be allowed to contest from 12 wards. Of the 12 seats, eight are represented by Trinamul.

Sources in the Congress said the South Malda MP had told Trinamul that the situation was different during the last civic elections in 2005. “At that time, the Englishbazar MLA, Krishnendu Chowdhury, was with Trinamul. It was under his leadership that the party had won eight wards. Now Krishnendu is with the Congress along with his associates. In the changed situation, we cannot agree to leave so many seats to them,” Abu Hashem had purportedly said.

Insiders in the Congress said no agreement on seat sharing had been arrived at the meeting. “Trinamul has declared that it will not leave Ward 10, which is held by the party’s Shantanu Saha. However, the Congress is also insisting that Ward 10 be allocated to it as Krishnendu wants to contest there,” said an insider. According to him, the Congress wants to project Krishnendu as the next chairman of the municipality.

However, after yesterday’s meeting, Abu Hashem declared that an alliance would be stitched together for both Englishbazar and Old Malda civic elections. According to Chakrabarty, the talks were held in a “cordial” atmosphere.

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