Trinamool gives more time to Congress

Kolkata, Mar 17 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS): Trinamool Congress (TMC) did not announce names of its candidates for the West Bengal Assembly polls on Thursday, brightening the possibility of an alliance with Congress even as the shadow of a standoff over seat sharing continues.
TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee had earlier set a Thursday deadline for the Congress to reach an agreement with her party over sharing constituencies to contest on for the coming state elections, media reports said.
But Banerjee did not jump her guns and showed restraint after earlier indicating that the TMC might announce names of candidates for the seats it has earmarked for itself on Thursday.
After a meeting between Banerjee and the Congress’ Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday failed to chalk out a seat sharing formula between the two awkward allies, the TMC’s firebrand leader seemed to have run out patience.
With West Bengal going to vote from Apr 18, in six phases, for its 294-seat Assembly, Banerjee had apparently refused to wait for a meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who is in London.
The Congress is said to have asked Banerjee to wait till Mar 21 but the Union railways minister, whose party is biggest ally of the Congress at the Centre, had refused to oblige and reportedly said if no agreement was reached she would announce the seats herself on Thursday evening.
But on Thursday she did not go ahead with announcing the names of the candidates.
“Nothing before Dol (the festival of Holi which falls on Mar 19 in Bengal) on alliance and seat sharing,” Mamata said.
The Congress meanwhile huddled to discuss the views of its leaders in the state but refused to take a decision. Congress state president Manas Bhunia said, “We cannot take any decision in Kolkata. We are a national party after all.”
“We will again sit for a meeting tomorrow on this”, he said.
From London, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said she wanted an alliance with the TMC in the state. There is now possibility of a second meeting between Pranab Mukherjee and Mamata after their meeting on Tuesday broke off.
“We have discussed about seat sharing. The discussion is inconclusive. We shall discuss it again,” Pranab Mukherjee had said earlier.
Analysts had predicted that the talks were unlikely to be very smooth with both the parties, who share an alliance at the Centre, wanting to play a hardball.
Media reports on Thursday said that Congress wants field candidates from 90 seats, but the TMC is reluctant to give away over 60 in the 294-seat Assembly.
On Wednesday, the TMC was said to have upped its offer to 68 seats but the Congress still found it unacceptable since they believed majority of the constituencies were ‘unwinnable’.

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