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Ally leaves red citadel to Cong
- Poll arithmetic prompts move, say some

Calcutta, June 13: Mamata Banerjee has left the bypoll-bound Durgapur I Assembly seat to ally Congress to ensure their civic poll acrimony does not spill over, and, according to some, possibly to avoid a blot on her spectacular record in a CPM citadel.

“We are not contesting the (July 5) Durgapur I Assembly bypoll. We shall back the Congress nominee there,” Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said today.

A party general secretary attributed the move to “the spirit of the alliance”. “Keeping this spirit in mind, Trinamul has decided to back the Congress in Durgapur. We shall consider the Congress nominee a candidate on behalf of the alliance,” said Malay Ghatak.

But the move may have more to do with cold poll arithmetic than warm-hearted generosity. Durgapur has been with the Left since 1977.

Even in 2009, when Mamata’s party handed the Left its worst Lok Sabha defeat in four decades, the CPM had led its Congress rival — fielded by the Congress-Trinamul alliance — by over 16,000 votes in this Assembly segment. In vote shares, the Left had an almost 10 per cent advantage over the Congress-Trinamul combine.

Mamata may have eaten further into the Left’s votes since 2009 but, according to some in Trinamul, she cannot afford any jolt to her “winds of change” chime at this juncture.

“Durgapur had resisted the call for change in 2009. We wouldn’t like to take any risk at this point,” a Trinamul general secretary said.

A Trinamul leader from Durgapur pointed out that party workers, “buoyed by the phenomenal (civic poll) victory across the state”, would be “demoralised” in the event of a sudden reverse in the bypoll.

“To win a bypoll in a Left stronghold is always tough. We had won the Bishnupur West bypoll in South 24-Parganas last year because we had been in power in the zilla parishad there since 2008. It is judicious to leave the Durgapur seat to the Congress,” said a Union minister from Trinamul.

Some Trinamul leaders, particularly those still angry with the Congress for going it alone in the civic polls, feel they have nothing to lose if the Congress contests Durgapur I. The blame for a defeat “will be theirs” while the credit for a win will be the alliance’s.

The civic polls have shown that even the surging Trinamul needs Congress help to form civic boards in the districts.

Another possible reason for Trinamul’s reluctance to contest Durgapur I is infighting in its ranks. The Durgapur unit is said to have two power centres, one led by Ghatak and the other by the party’s Durgapur Lok Sabha unit chairman, Prabhat Chatterjee.

The Congress said it would finalise its candidate in a day or two. “Mamataji doesn’t want to contest. So, we are left with no option but to field our nominee,” said K. Keshava Rao, the Congress general secretary in charge of Bengal.

Bengal Congress president Pranab Mukherjee met working president Pradip Bhattacharya last night and apparently discussed the bypoll.

Bhattacharya today sent a list of possible candidates to the high command. Bansibadan Karmakar, who had lost in 2006, said he was hoping for a renomination.

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