Congress chief Rahul Gandhi with CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury (right). (PTI)
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi with CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury (right). (PTI)

Congress Bengal unit puts riders on pre-poll pact with Left parties

  • West Bengal unit of Congress says an alliance with Left parties can happen only if there was a pre-declared seat-sharing pact
  • The development comes just days after the CPM proposed a model of no mutual contest on the six Lok Sabha seats in the state

NEW DELHI: Drawing lessons from the assembly elections in 2016, the West Bengal unit of the Congress on Wednesday conveyed to its central leadership that an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls can happen only if there was a pre-declared seat-sharing agreement.

The Congress had an informal understanding with the Left parties during the assembly polls, and both were routed.

The development comes just days after the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, proposed a model of no mutual contest on the six Lok Sabha seats in the state, where both parties are incumbent. A pre-poll pact among the two parties is crucial to the overall strength of the Mahagatbandhan, which aims to pool anti-Bharatiya Janata Party votes in most states.

On Wednesday, senior leaders of the state unit of the Congress met party president Rahul Gandhi in the national capital. The state leaders conveyed that it would “accept the high command’s decision" on the issue but added that the alliance proposal comes with riders. “We told the central leadership that there should be a publicly announced alliance and there should be no behind-the-curtain arrangement, which sends a mixed signal. We have also said that it should come with a commitment that any such understanding should last till the next assembly elections in 2021," a senior state leader, who attended the meeting, said, requesting anonymity.

Two Lok Sabha seats, Murshidabad and Raiganj, held by the CPM, continue to be the bone of contention. Both sides are unwilling to budge from their demand of contesting the seats. Senior leaders of the two parties feel that this could be the deal breaker if neither side concedes space.

According to senior Congress leaders who attended the meeting on Wednesday, Gandhi said he would hold discussions on the issue and convey the central leadership’s stand to the state unit.

With both parties at the state level holding a series of meetings to iron out differences, Congress leaders said that Gandhi could now hold a meeting with CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury to arrive at an understanding.

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