TMC-Congress arrive at poll alliance in Bengal

New Delhi/Kolkata, Mar 21 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS): Ending weeks of uncertainty and a political battle of nerves, the Congress and Trinamool Congress on Monday arrived at an alliance to fight the West Bengal assembly elections together, Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee said.

They said in New Delhi and Kolkata in almost simultaneous press meets that according to the alliance, Congress will fight in 65 seats and TMC will fight  229.

West Bengal Assembly has 294 members.

In Kolkata, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee  held a  press conference to announce the alliance at the same time Congress held one in New Delhi.

“I am happy Congress agreed to fight the polls with us. It is a big thing. We will put an end to Left rule and restore democracy,” Mamata said in Kolkata.

In New Delhi, Ahmed said: “We have adjusted one seat. We hope this adjustment will lead to the end of 34 year old rule of communists.”

“We appeal to all people of Bengal and the Congress workers to support this alliance. We will have close cooperation and make this alliance a success,” Ahmed said.

On Friday Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee announced her list of 228 candidates (leaving 64 for Congress)  after seat sharing talks with Congress hit a roadblock.

Congress had said on Saturday the decision of Mamata was unilateral and not agreeable to the national party.

But the clouds were clearing on Monday and especially after Congress chief  Sonia Gandhi returned from abroad. She held discussions with party trouble shooter Pranab Mukherjee and paved the way for an alliance.

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke to Mamata Banerjee over phone on Monday.

Under the new arrangement, Trinamool Congress  conceded one seat (Canning) to Congress, making it 65 for the national party it shores up at the centre.

Congress had earlier asked for 90 seats.

Mamata Banerjee declared the names of 228 candidates at a press conference Friday, in a take-it-or-leave-it message to Congress.

“We have kept 64 seats for Congress since the door for an alliance is still open. They are a big party but in Bengal we are the main party,” she had said.

Mamata did not leave any seat for Congress in Kolkata, despite demands by the latter.

“We waited for 18 days since announcement of polls because we are for alliance. We have sent our representative to them again and again and also I went myself as you know,” she had said on Friday.

Stung by corruption scandals and its image tainted by alliance partners like DMK over mobile spectrum scam, Congress did not clear wanted to antagonize Trinamool Congress, a coalition party with clean image, political analysts said.

Trinamool Congress left two seats for its alliance partner Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), a left party outside the ruling Left Front.

West Bengal is going to vote from Apr 18, in six phases, for its 294-seat Assembly, in a watershed election with the ruling communists facing the most difficult poll battle of its tenure owing to the growing strength of Mamata Banerjee’s party and setbacks over its land acquisition policies.

(Reporting by Sujoy Dhar)

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