In Tamil Nadu, the Congress and the DMK held the first round of seat sharing talks on Thursday. (Representational)
ALTHOUGH THE schedule of the Assembly elections were announced on Thursday, the Congress is nowhere close to a seat-sharing arrangement with the DMK in Tamil Nadu, and new entrant Indian Secular Front has complicated and delayed the Congress-Left seat-sharing exercise in West Bengal. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK is said to be flexing its muscles, much to the chagrin of the Congress.
Sources in the Congress in Bengal said the Left parties have more or less finalised a seat-sharing agreement with the Indian Secular Front (ISF) led by Furfura sharif Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui but the newly formed party is still bargaining hard. The sources said the Left parties have agreed to give 30 seats to the ISF from their quota but Siddiqui is seeking more seats from the Congress.
While West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told The Indian Express that the seat-sharing talks are “on the verge of completion” and would be “announced in a day or two”, sources said the entry of ISF has complicated the exercise. “The Left is said to have decided to give 30 seats to the ISF. They are in talks with both the CPM and the Congress separately. We can’t give many seats,” a senior leader said.
The Congress, sources said, cannot part with more seats to the ISF. Last time, it had won 44 seats, out of which 22 are in the Muslim-concentrated Murshidabad and Malda districts. “Those are our strong areas. We cannot give many seats in these two districts. It is difficult for us,” a senior leader said.
Asked about the Election Commission’s decision to hold elections in eight phases, Chowdhury said the Congress has no objection to it. “It only proves that the law and order situation in Bengal is not good. We don’t have any problem. We have been demanding that elections should be held in a free and fair manner. The administration is in the pocket of the ruling party. So we have in the past raised many complaints. We don’t have any problem if elections are held in eight phases…ultimately, people should be allowed to vote freely,” he said.
In Tamil Nadu, the Congress and the DMK held the first round of seat sharing talks on Thursday. But the Congress was in for a shock when the DMK negotiators told them that the party cannot part with more than 25 seats for it. The Congress, sources said, asked for over 50 seats. The party had contested in 41 seats last time but could win only eight.
Sources said the DMK interlocutors told the Congress leaders that its strike rate last time around was poor and the DMK cannot afford to give more seats this time as it wants to contest more seats.
While the DMK side was represented by general secretary Duraimurugan, treasurer T R Baalu and Lok Sabha MP and senior leader Kanimozhi, the Congress side was led by former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy and AICC general secretary Randeep Surjewala.