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“Mamata’s fate is also involved”

Special Correspondent

Deadline given to the Congress by the Trinamool set to expire

KOLKATA: With the deadline given to the Congress by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to formalise the electoral tie-up between the two parties just a day away, any break-up in the proposed arrangement could make the task of her retaining her own seat in the coming Lok Sabha elections a daunting one.

This is an argument shared by senior State Congress leaders, who point out that Ms. Banerjee has as much to lose individually as her party collectively in the event of the tie-up not materialising.

The change in the electorate profile following delimitation of the South Kolkata constituency, from where Ms. Banerjee will be seeking re-election, has thrown up a fresh set of imperatives to put the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s nominee at an advantage.

Ms. Banerjee will need the support of the Congress that has a substantial support base in some of the wards (as evident in the last civic polls in 2005) that have been incorporated into the constituency if she is to feel comfortable about retaining her seat, Nirbed Roy, president of Trinamool’s South Kolkata district unit, told The Hindu here on Wednesday.

She defeated her closest CPI(M) rival Rabin Deb by a margin of a little more than 98,400 votes in the last Lok Sabha elections. The Congress candidate, Nafisa Ali got nearly 60,900 votes.

Besides being a key constituency, South Kolkata is among the largest in the State in terms of population. That, like most other regional parties the Trinamool is individual-centric, makes the contest there all the more critical.

More than once over the past week has Ms. Banerjee expressed her annoyance over the Congress’s dragging its feet on formalising its electoral arrangement with her party. She even went on to say on Tuesday that her party and her allies were prepared to put up candidates in all 42 seats if the deadline set by her is not met.

But there is much more than meets the eye in her waiting all this while, a section of Congress leaders points out. One of her major considerations comes from a tacit acknowledgement that the odds might be stacked heavily against her in her own constituency if the proposed electoral pact falls through.

Hopeful

The Congress leadership, however, remains hopeful that in the interests of both the Opposition parties who, after eight years, have decided — so far “on principle” — to throw a joint challenge to the Left Front in the State, the tie-up with the Trinamool Congress will be finalised within the timeframe mentioned by Ms. Banerjee.

The differences over seat adjustments between the two parties have narrowed down to just a single seat that the Congress is still demanding of the Trinamool Congress in south Bengal without disturbing the consensus formula of it contesting from 14 constituencies as against the latter’s 28.

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