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Congress-Trinamool talks fail to reach consensus

Raktima Bose

Pranab, Mamata discuss seat-sharing issue for an hour

KOLKATA: A consensus on seat-sharing between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress for the upcoming West Bengal Assembly polls remained elusive at the end of a meeting between Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee here late on Tuesday evening.

To discuss again

“We have discussed about seat-sharing. The discussions are inconclusive. We will discuss it again,” Mr. Mukherjee told journalists at the end of the meeting that lasted over an hour.

Immediately after the meeting got over, Ms. Banerjee left without making any comment on the proceedings.

The meeting was held at Mr. Mukherjee's residence. Congress Working Committee member and West Bengal party affairs in-charge Shakeel Ahmed was also present along with Pradesh Congress Committee president Manas Bhunia and senior Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy.

With the Left Front having released its list of candidates this past Sunday, both the Congress and Trinamool Congress camps were hoping for an agreeable seat-sharing solution at the high-profile meeting to kick-start the campaign process.

The meeting was scheduled to take place last Saturday but was postponed after Mr. Mukherjee cancelled his visit to the city.

Instead, senior Trinamool leaders Mukul Roy and Sultan Ahmed went to New Delhi where they discussed on Sunday the issue with Shakeel Ahmed and senior Congress leader B. Janardhana Poojary after which they called on Mr. Mukherjee.

The talks, however, were viewed as preparatory to final discussions between Mr. Mukherjee and Ms. Banerjee.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked Mr. Mukherjee on Monday to chart out a suitable deal by holding a direct dialogue with the Trinamool Congress chief.

In spite of two long weeks of marathon meetings and bargaining, a consensus has remained elusive.

The State Congress had initially demanded 98 seats in “alliance with respect” and the Trinamool Congress was reluctant to raise its offer of 60 seats.

Going by the electoral success achieved by the Trinamool Congress in the panchayat, Lok Sabha and civic elections in the past three years and the drubbing faced by the Congress in the State's municipal elections as well as in the Bihar Assembly polls, Trinamool clearly is in an advantageous situation to have its way in seat-sharing.

Divergent views

Meanwhile, divergent views on the demand for seats were reported from the Pradesh Congress camp recently as some State party leaders emphasised the need for an alliance to fight against the ruling Left Front rather than bargaining for more seats thus jeopardising the alliance.

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