Monday, March 21, 2011

Congress, Trinamool reach seat-sharing deal for West Bengal polls

New Delhi, March 21, 2011

Ending days of suspense, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress reached seat-sharing agreement with the former settling for 65 seats, against its original demand of 90, and the Trinamool taking 229 seats for the West Bengal Assembly elections.

The deal was announced within hours of a meeting between Congress president Sonia Gandhi with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the latter's telephonic talk with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

"Congress has entered into a seat-sharing agreement with Trinamool Congress for West Bengal Assembly polls. We expect that the alliance will give a chance to the people of Bengal to end misrule of the Left," AICC spokesman Shakeel Ahmed told reporters in New Delhi.

Under the agreement, Congress will contest from 65 seats while Trinamool will contest from 229 seats, Mr. Ahmed said.

Congress initially had demanded 90 seats but Trinamool was not ready to give more than 45. During the several rounds of negotiations, Congress dropped the demand to 70 seats but Trinamool said it could give only 64 seats.

As the stalemate continued, Trinamool went ahead and unilaterally declared candidates for 228, saying it could not wait endlessly.

\'No compromise in agreement\'

Replying to queries, Mr. Ahmed insisted that there was no compromise in the agreement on part of the Congress.

"There is no question of compromise or surrender when two parties agree for a negotiated settlement. All should honour it," he said.

"Every party wants to contest as many seats as possible but when they sit at negotiating table, they arrive at a mutually agreed number," the Congress spokesman argued.

West Bengal Congress chief Manas Bhunia, who was also present at the press conference, did not reply to questions as to whether the local party unit was satisfied with the deal.

Mr. Bhunia had earlier given to the Congress High Command a list of 98 seats, which it wanted to contest.

"Ours is a national party and I am the PCC chief of Bengal. I had communicated the views of my people to the party High Command. Now a decision has been taken between the central leadership of the parties. West Bengal parties will abide by that," was his refrain to repeated questions on whether the deal was a success or not for Congress.

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