Kolkata: West Bengal state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Wednesday offered his party’s support to the Left parties in the forthcoming election to the Rajya Sabha, saying that only an alliance between the Congress and the Left parties could stop the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from making inroads.

Elections are to be held for five Rajya Sabha seats in West Bengal on 23 March. The dominant Trinamool Congress party can, on its own strength in the state assembly, secure four of the five seats. To secure the fifth seat, the opposition parties must vote together.

Chowdhury on Wednesday said the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or the CPM’s decision not to ally with the Congress was the key to the BJP gaining ground in West Bengal. He said the Congress was willing to support CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury if he runs for the Rajya Sabha from West Bengal. An independent consensus candidate was also acceptable to Congress, he added.

The Trinamool Congress backed the Congress in a similar Rajya Sabha election last year, resulting in senior Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya getting elected to the upper house.

Chowdhury’s unilateral offer on Wednesday is aimed at pre-empting a situation similar to last year, and brings to the fore differences within the Congress leadership, said a key Trinamool Congress leader, who asked not to be named.

The Trinamool Congress is likely to field candidates for all five seats, this person added. If the opposition parties do not vote for a common candidate, the Trinamool Congress could get all its candidates elected to the Rajya Sabha.

The CPM is weighing in on the offer. There has been no discussion yet on this matter, said Sujan Chakraborty, a party legislator. The idea of fielding an independent candidate can be considered, he added, while reiterating the party’s official stand of not having any alliance with the Congress.