The state Congress on Wednesday said differences between it and the CPM over three Lok Sabha seats were stalling an electoral arrangement between the two parties, but that it was hopeful of reaching a decision by Sunday (March 3).
Congress state chief Somen Mitra and other leaders held a meeting at the party headquarters in Kolkata in the presence of Gaurav Gogoi, the party’s state observer. “There are differences over three seats that we want — Raiganj, Murshidabad and Purulia. We will try to see if the differences can be settled. We hope to come to a decision by coming Sunday on whether there will be a seat-sharing agreement,” Mitra said after the three-hour meeting.
The Raiganj and Purulia seats are presently held by the CPM, while the TMC holds Purulia. “The state Congress unit’s decision will be final, Rahul Gandhi has said,” said Gogoi, a Lok Sabha MP from Assam.
Congress leaders argued on Wednesday that the party’s organisation grew in both Raiganj and Murshidabad in the last five years, and that it managed to survive a “poaching onslaught” by the TMC and BJP in Purulia. “People in Raiganj and Murshidabad had switched from CPM to Congress in large numbers over the past five years, but there are no instances of our workers joining CPM. Given the present scenario, Congress deserves the seats,” said Mitra.
CPM leaders refused to comments on the matter, saying that the talks are not yet over. However, sources said the party did not want to share the two seats it currently holds, and that it was not asking for any of the four seats currently held by the Congress.
“We will discuss once Congress communicates its decision to us. But how can we withdraw our claim on our winning seats when we are not claiming any of Congress’ existing seats?” said a senior CPM leader. Leaders from both sides said there was no major difference of opinion over the remaining 39 seats in the state.
During a recent meeting of Left parties to discuss seat-sharing with the Congress, Left Front partner Forward Bloc said it would not withdraw its claim to the Purulia seat, which the party held for years before losing it to TMC in 2014.