CPM firm on not vacating 2 seats for Cong in state, alliance talks in rough weather

NEW DELHI
6 Mar 2019

The CPM is firm on not giving up its claim on the two sitting Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal in favour of the Congress, which could create a major roadblock in the seat-sharing talks between the two parties, senior Left Front leaders said today.
The two sides have already held several rounds of talks but were unable to untangle the skein of Raiganj and Murshidabad, the only seats the CPM won in the last Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal. "No. We offered no contest in sitting seats. It's now up to them," a senior CPM leader told news agency PTI in Delhi, to a question whether the party was ready to negotiate on the two seats. The comments come after Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra flew to Delhi and met party chief Rahul Gandhi today to discuss the issue. Rahul assured Mitra that he would talk to CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury to resolve the impasse, state Congress leaders said in Kolkata.
If the CPM and the Congress remain firm on their stands, it might lead to a collapse of the seat-sharing talks between the two sides that are struggling to counter the ruling Trinamool Congress and a surging BJP in the state, which has 42 parliamentary constituencies. On the matter, another Left Front leader told the news agency, "These are two sitting seats, why should we vacate it? It makes no sense."
CPM Politburo member Mohammad Salim won the Raiganj seat in north Bengal by around 1,600 votes, while Badaruddoza Khan had won the Murshidabad constituency with a margin of around 18,000 votes in the 2014 general elections. The CPM won the two seats in a four-cornered contest, though they have been traditional Congress strongholds. While Uttar Dinajpur's Raiganj has been a pocket borough of Congress stalwart Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, Murshidabad's politics has been dominated by the party's firebrand leader Adhir Chowdhury.
"It's their decision, the decision is their's completely. If they do not want an alliance, then the Left Front will decide. In election, we have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C," Salim told PTI. The Congress argues that the two places are traditional Congress bastions and the party lost the two seats in 2014 polls by narrow margins. Earlier at its Central Committee meeting, the CPM had proposed "no mutual contest" for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the six seats currently held by the Congress and the Left Front in West Bengal, indicating its willingness for an understanding between the two political blocs in the state.