THE CPM on Sunday decided to field its candidates in its sitting Lok Sabha seats of Raiganj and Murshidabad in West Bengal, setting the stage for a friendly fight with the Congress with which the party is likely to have a tactical understanding in the state.
The CPM central committee, which began its two-day meeting here, decided against vacating the two seats which the Congress wants to contest. Raiganj and Murshidabad had emerged as the thorn in the possible Left-Congress seat sharing plan.
Raiganj is currently represented by CPM politburo member Mohd Salim. He had defeated Congress’s Deepa Das Munshi in 2014 by 1,634 votes. Murshidabad is represented by CPM’s Md Badaruddoza Khan, who defeated Congress’s Abdul Mannan Hossain by 18,453 votes.
The Congress wants to contest in both seats as it considers Raiganj and Murshidabad along with Baharampur, Jangipur, Maldaha Uttar and Dakshin seats as its traditional strongholds. In 2014, the party had won Baharampur, Jangipur, Maldaha Uttar and Dakshin seats.
Before 2014, the CPM last won the Raiganj seat in 1998. While Congress leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi had won the seat in 1999 and 2004, his wife Dipa retained the seat in 2009. Sources said the Bengal CPM is willing to offer as many as 12 Lok Sabha seats to the Congress from their quota of the Left Front but Raiganj and Murshidabad would not be among them.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the CPM had contested in 32 out of the total 42 seats in the state and left 10 seats for its allies — the CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc. But with the three allies unwilling to sacrifice their seats for the Congress, the CPM, sources said, is willing to let go some of the seats from its share to keep the alliance ball rolling and ensure maximum pooling of anti-BJP, anti-Trinamool Congress votes.
A final decision on the seats to be contested will be taken on Monday by the Central Committee, party sources said. They said the Congress wants to contest in as many as 18 out of 42 seats in the state. Even if the CPM agrees to not field its candidates in many seats, sources said there could still be friendly fights between the two parties and between the Congress and the other Left front constituents in many seats.