There are practical hurdles: Congress on CPI-M overtures in Bengal

Kolkata: Giving a guarded response to the CPI-M’s announcement that it would avoid a mutual contest in the six West Bengal Lok Sabha seats currently held by it and the Congress, the state Congress on Monday said while it saw no reason to “discourage” them, there were practical hurdles which needed to be sorted out first.

Former state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya, who has been playing a key role in the ongoing seat adjustment discussions with the Communist Party of India-Marxist, hoped that a further round of discussions would help the two parties to come to some decision.

“I know what the CPI-M has said. I see no reason to discourage the CPI-M. But there are difficulties we are facing in coming to an adjustment. These practical hurdles needed to be removed first,” Bhattacharya, a Rajya Sabha member, told IANS.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress won four and the Left Front major CPI-M bagged two of the 42 seats in the state.

Ever since the two parties began seat-sharing talks for the coming general elections, a major problem has been the two seats – Raiganj and Murshidabad – which were won by the CPI-M five years back. The Congress, which considers Raiganj as its pocket borough, having won it six times out of the last nine polls, has been adamant on contesting it. Moreover, Congress leader Deepa Dasmunsi, who won the seat in 2009 but lost out narrowly to CPI-M’s Mohammed Salim in 2014, has been keen on trying her luck again from the constituency.

Similarly, former state Congress chief and Murshidabad district stalwart Adhir Chowdhury wants the party to put up a candidate for the Murshidabad seat, which his party had won in 2004 and 2009.

The CPI-M, on the other hand, from the start of the negotiations has been harping on the formula of the two parties putting up candidates in the seats they won last time.

The Maxists thus were ready to back the Congress in Baharampur, Jangipur, North Malda and South Malda – where it has sitting MPs. In fact, the CPI-M persuaded Left Front partner Revolutionary Socialist Party to not put up any candidate from its traditional constituency Baharampur, from where Chowdhury has been winning since 1999.

State Congress president Somen Mitra said both Congress and the Left Front need to come together.

“Both need the alliance. Unless they join hands with the Congress, the Left Front will not be able to open their account in the state this time.”

Mitra conceded that Murshidabad and Raiganj were the problem seats.

He said the Congress has made it clear to the Marxists that they wanted to fight from both the seats. “But they have not agreed to far.”

On coming to an overall adjustment with the Left in the state, Bhattacharya said: “Why talk of only Raiganj and Murshidabad? There are problems with other seats as well.”

Apparently, Bhattacharya was referring to Purulia, from which another LF constituent All India Forward Bloc has decided to join the fray. The Congress has also been eyeing the seat.

The AIFB has opposed any truck with the Congress, and said it would go it alone if the LF partners CPI-M, CPI and the RSP seal an alliance with the Congress.

“We are looking at another round of negotiations, so that we can come to some decision,” said Bhattacharya.