CPM refuses to concede 2 seats to Congress
The possibility of a Left Front-Congress alliance in Bengal for the Lok Sabha polls suffered a major jolt on Thursday as the state committee of the CPM decided to field its candidates in Raiganj and Murshidabad, two seats to which the Congress, too, had staked claim.
“Raiganj and Murshidabad were won by the CPM in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. We are going to contest the two seats this time even if the Congress decides to field candidates,” said a CPM state secretariat member, adding that the possibility of an alliance with the Congress was “virtually over”.
CPM leaders, especially state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra, had initiated preliminary talks with Bengal Congress veterans on retaining seats won by respective parties in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll results.
This formula meant that the CPM would contest from Raiganj and Murshidabad which it won. The Congress would field candidates from four seats — two each in Malda and Murshidabad districts — it had won.
In its desperation to stitch together an alliance, the CPM had convinced its partners in the Left Front to accommodate the Congress and agreed to give seats to the Congress from its own quota of 32 out of the 42 in the state.
Traditionally, the CPM leaves aside 10 seats for partners in the Left Front.
“During the state committee meeting, several leaders questioned the logic behind allying with the Congress… They even cited how several Congress MLAs later joined Trinamul after winning as Left-Congress alliance candidates in the 2016 Assembly polls,” said a source.
The disagreement resulted in voting on Thursday, but the pro-alliance lobby won with a handsome margin in the show of hands.
Although the pro-alliance lobby had the majority, they could not agree on the Congress demand and a decision was taken that the party would field candidates in the two contentious seats.
“The Congress leaders have been constantly pressing for contesting both our winning seats, which has resulted in a sudden derailment of the alliance talks. We are, however, still hopeful,” said a source.
The source added that the Congress was to blame for the derailment of the talks as the party had decided not to contest from the Lok Sabha seats that the Congress had won in last election in an attempt to consolidate non-BJP and non-Trinamul votes.
According to him, party general secretary Sitaram Yechury may take up the issue with Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Sources in the Congress said the party had already decided to contest from Purulia too.
“CPM state leaders, including Left Front chairman Biman Bose, worked hard to convince one of the Left constituent – RSP to sacrifice their claim over the Behrampore Lok Sabha seat that the Congress had won. But despite that gesture, the adamant stand of the state Congress had left us with no other options,” a CPM insider said.
According to him, the CPM has decided to initiate talks with other Left parties and make ways for them to field candidates in some of the Lok Sabha seats, which the CPM is not keen on contesting.