Doubt Congress will get ‘even 40 seats’ in Lok Sabha polls, says Mamata

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee challenges Congress to defeat the BJP in all the Hindi heartland States

February 03, 2024 12:34 am | Updated 05:10 pm IST - Kolkata

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s remarks followed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s assertion that discussions on seat-sharing with the ruling party were ongoing and the matter would be resolved.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s remarks followed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s assertion that discussions on seat-sharing with the ruling party were ongoing and the matter would be resolved. | Photo Credit: ANI

Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday challenged the Congress to take on the BJP in the Hindi heartland States even as she expressed doubt in its ability to secure “even 40 seats” in the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

Ms. Banerjee’s remarks followed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s assertion that discussions on seat-sharing with the ruling party were ongoing and the matter would be resolved.

Strongly criticising Congress’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, which traversed through six districts of Bengal, Ms. Banerjee compared it to a “mere photo opportunity” for “migratory birds” aimed at dividing minority votes in the State.

“I proposed that Congress contest 300 seats (across the country where BJP is the main opposition) but they refused to heed. Now, they have arrived in the State to stir up Muslim voters. I doubt whether they will secure even 40 seats if they contested 300,” she asserted.

Addressing a dharna in Kolkata to demand the clearance of the State’s dues by the Centre, Ms. Banerjee reiterated her party’s willingness to form an alliance with the Congress for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal but emphasised that it was the grand-old party which declined her offer.

“We were open to an alliance, offering them two seats, which they rejected. Now, let them contest in all 42 seats alone. Since then, there has been no dialogue between us. We will fight alone and defeat the BJP in Bengal,” she said.

Her remarks came a day after Mr. Gandhi expressed his optimism about resolving the seat-sharing stalemate while interacting with the party’s ‘digital media warriors’ in West Bengal on Thursday night.

Asked why the Congress was giving importance to Ms. Banerjee despite her unwillingness to leave a single Lok Sabha seat for the Congress in the State, Mr. Gandhi said, “Neither Mamata ji has said, nor the Congress has come out of the alliance (sic).” Even Mamata ji is saying that she is in the alliance. Seat negotiations are on from both ends. It will be resolved,” he said during the interaction, a video of which was shared on his X handle on Friday afternoon.

Despite Congress’s attempts to reconcile with the Trinamool following a deadlock over seat-sharing in West Bengal, Ms. Banerjee, who had earlier declared her party’s intention to contest alone, remained steadfast in her refusal to allocate seats to the grand-old party.

Throwing up a challenge, the feisty Trinamool boss urged the Congress to take on the BJP and defeat the saffron camp in States like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh.

“If you have the courage, defeat the BJP in UP, Banaras, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. Where were you (Congress) when Manipur was burning? We had sent a team,” she said.

According to sources, the Congress’s yatra through six districts of North Bengal, notably Uttar Dinajpur, Malda, and Murshidabad, known for their significant minority population and traditional Congress support, might have triggered Ms. Banerjee’s stance.

Drawing a vivid comparison between Congress’s Yatra and “migratory birds”, Ms. Banerjee derided the event as a “mere spectacle for photo opportunities”, suggesting it lacked genuine intent.

In 2010, during Rahul Gandhi’s visit to West Bengal, Ms. Banerjee, then at the forefront of opposing the CPI(M)-led Left Front regime, had equated him with the “cuckoo of spring” (basanter kokil), a proverb she used to dub the Congress leader as a politician who only visits during elections.

Regarding the yatra traversing through Bengal, Ms. Banerjee remarked that the Congress did not inform her about it.

“Despite being an alliance partner of INDIA, they did not inform them. I got to know through administrative sources. They had called Derek O’Brien to request that the rally be allowed to pass through. Why come to Bengal then?” she said.

On Thursday, Ms. Banerjee said she was keen on a seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress, but it joined hands with the CPI(M) to assist the BJP in the elections, forcing her to go it alone in the Lok Sabha polls.

She asserted that the Trinamool will work with other regional parties after the elections.

While the CPI(M), Congress, and Trinamool form part of the 27-party Opposition bloc INDIA, in West Bengal, the grand-old party has aligned with the CPI(M) against Trinamool and BJP.

In the 2019 elections, Trinamool Congress secured 22 seats, Congress won two, and the BJP bagged 18 seats in the State.

Tensions escalated when Trinamool’s offer of two seats, based on Congress’s 2019 Lok Sabha election performance, was deemed insufficient.

The Trinamool Congress had previously allied with the Congress in the 2001 Assembly polls, the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, and the 2011 Assembly polls, leading to the ousting of the CPI (M)-led Left Front government of 34 years.

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