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Cong floats post-poll pact hope

- Trinamul scoffs at idea of tie-up

Sankar Malakar

Siliguri, March 6: The Congress has said it would keep its alliance options with Trinamul and the Left open after the SMC elections as no party is likely to secure majority.

A Trinamul leader, asked about the Congress's talk of alliance, said at the campaign then "we will tell people to vote for our candidates instead of the Congress's.... Why vote for the

Congress when the party is not confident itself of securing the majority?"

The Left Front did not want to comment on the issue.

The outgoing civic body was headed by Gangotri Dutta of the Congress. The Congress and Trinamul had formed the board in alliance but the two parties eventually fell out.

According to a senior Congress leader, no single party would secure the majority in the SMC polls for which a party of formation would have to win 24 of the 47 seats.

"Considering the state of political affairs in Siliguri, it is quite clear that it would be tough for the party to secure 24 seats, that is the majority mark, in the civic elections. Candidates would be fielded in all 47 seats. Our plan is to retain the 15 seats we had won in 2009. It is always better to consolidate support in our strongholds, secure the old seats and then explore options of a post-election alliance," the Congress leader said

"Our reading is that none of the parties will be able to win in 24 seats. This is where the Congress will play a determining factor," the leader said.

In the previous SMC board, the Left had 17 seats, and Trinamul 15. The BJP, which intends to contest from all seats this time, had no member.

But since the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has been trying hard to make inroads in urban centres in Bengal, and Siliguri, too, is on its radar. The Lok Sabha poll numbers show that the BJP was leading in 21 SMC seats. If the BJP gains in this election, the vote would be further fragmented.

The Congress leader said: "We are anticipating proposals for alliance or even support from outside from both Trinamul and the Left Front. It seems that both these sides will secure 15 to 17 seats each while the BJP will end up with four or five seats," the leader said.

District Congress sources said Sankar Malakar, the Darjeeling district party president and Matigara-Naxalbari MLA, would not contest the SMC polls unlike north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb, who is the Trinamul Darjeeling district president, and former minister and CPM leader Asok Bhattacharya, the district convenor of the Left Front, Darjeeling.

"He (Malakar) is the most important leader of the Congress in Darjeeling district and we don't want him to get engaged in a ward. In case he contests, it will be tough for him to head the campaign," said a Congress insider.

"Second, as it is clear that the Congress cannot emerge with a single majority and would scout for alliance, there is no point for the district president to contest for a ward councillor's post," he added.

Political observers said the party had taken a rational decision.

"The position of the Congress has considerably weakened across the state since 2009 and particularly after the 2014 Parliament polls. Siliguri is no exception. It is better for the Congress to try and retain as many seats as possible instead of trying for all seats," an observer said.

"The assertion by the Congress leaders ahead of the elections that they are open for alliance would also send a clear message to other political parties who can devise their strategy accordingly."

Some Congress leaders, however, said such assertions might affect the Congress's fate in the elections. "If a section of party insiders keep making such comments, there are chances that our results might get affected."


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