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Cong taps ally for RS help

March 10: The AICC’s Bengal in-charge, Shakeel Ahmed, paid an unscheduled visit to Mamata Banerjee at Writers’ today at the high command’s behest and sought her party’s support to get the Congress’s sole nominee from Bengal elected to the Rajya Sabha.

“Meeting Mamataji was not on my agenda because I was scheduled to address a rally in West Midnapore. But after I reached Calcutta last night, I was asked by the central leadership to call on the chief minister to seek her party’s support for our candidate for the March 30 Rajya Sabha polls,” Ahmed said.

Asked if the Trinamul chief had agreed to his request, the AICC general secretary said: “Mamataji told me she would take a call after discussions with her party leadership. But I hope she backs our nominee as Trinamul and the Congress are allies both in Bengal and at the Centre.”

Five persons from Bengal will be elected to the Rajya Sabha as five seats will fall vacant on April 2. On the basis of its strength in the Assembly (185 seats), Trinamul will send three members to the upper House while the Left (61 seats) will send one. The remaining seat will go either to Trinamul or the Congress depending on which party gets the requisite number of votes in favour of its candidate.

Each candidate has to get the votes of 49 legislators to be elected to the Rajya Sabha. The Congress with its 42 MLAs and the lone Independent and party rebel Hamidul Rahman requires six more votes. “Our candidate will sail through if he gets six votes from Trinamul,” Ahmed said.

Trinamul junior minister at the Centre, Mukul Roy, who was also present at the meeting, refused to say whether his party would support the Congress nominee.

A Congress leader claimed Hamidul would back “our nominee” because of his “long association” with the party.

At the Midnapore rally in the afternoon, Congress leaders heaped praise on Mamata and her government to “keep her in good humour”.

“The government has done a lot for the development of Jungle Mahal,” Ahmed said. Congress leader and state irrigation minister Manas Bhunia said the party would organise a rally in Lalgarh after March 14 to “highlight the good work” the state and central governments had done in the Maoist-affected belt.

At a rally in Purulia, Raiganj MP Deepa Das Munshi, who has testy ties with Mamata, did not utter a single word against the Trinamul chief.