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Mamata and the Congress: the partnership dance

Every time there is an election in West Bengal,there are talks of an alliance between the Congress party and the Trinamool Congress.

Written by Bidyut Roy | Kolkata | Published: February 16, 2009 11:30 pm

Every time there is an election in West Bengal,there are talks of an alliance between the Congress party and the Trinamool Congress. The Trinamool Congress was formed in 1998,after breaking away from the Congress,but the parties went in for tie-up in the 2001 Assembly elections.

However,an alliance after 2001 never materialised as the parties could not reach an agreement in the run-up to the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and 2006 Assembly polls. But with general elections approaching,both parties have begun their familiar dance with each other. Pranab Mukherjee and Mamata Banerjee have already had a meeting in Delhi to work out a formula for an electoral adjustment. Sources in both the parties,however,feel that there will be a repeat of what happened in 2004 and 2006,when talks failed.

Mamata,after the formation of the Trinamool Congress,joined the BJP-led NDA and became minister twice in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government. Before the 2001 Assembly polls,she quit the post of Railway Minister after the Tehelka expose on corruption in the government. Since then she has kept her distance from both the BJP and Congress,a stand which she officially maintains till date. Last Monday,with chances of an alliance with the Congress looking brighter,she said there was no question of her tying up with the BJP or NDA.

After she quit the Railway Ministry,the Congress had thought Mamata would be back in the party and thus initiated talks with her. Before elections,Mamata even met Congress president Sonia Gandhi but nothing came of it.

The talks gained ground only in 2001 and a formal alliance for 276 of the 294 seats in the Assembly was chalked out between the Congress and Trinamool,who opted for a “friendly contest” in the rest of the 18 seats. The Congress allowed

Trinamool to contest from 229 seats and the elections saw the alliance bagging around 90 seats.

Now,in a repeat of a pattern of several years,a number of Congress leaders are less than enthused about an alliance with Trinamool. On several occasions earlier,Somen Mitra led the block of opposition to an adjustment with Mamata. Now,though he himself has broken away from the Congress and joined the Mamata camp,new faces like Deepa Dasmunsi and Adhir Chowdhury are opposed to an alliance. Leaders in the Congress explain: “Mamata Banerjee does not keep in mind the national political scenario. For the Congress,national politics is more important. Another factor is that an alliance between the mother party and a breakaway group is always difficult. The year 2001 was an exception when we thought that it was necessary to keep the BJP at bay.”

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