Mamata rules out alliance with Congress in West Bengal 

Congress has rejected TMC’s proposal to concede two seats, says CM; complains that Congress did not inform her of yatra entering the State; says fate of all-India alliance will be decided after LS poll

January 24, 2024 01:40 pm | Updated January 25, 2024 02:59 am IST - KOLKATA

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. File

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The Trinamool Congress has slammed the door shut on any alliance with the Congress in West Bengal for the Lok Sabha election, with party chief and State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee adding that the future of a national alliance would be considered after the election.

“I had no discussions with the Congress party or anyone else. We had given a proposal which they refused from the start. Since then, our party has decided that we will fight alone in West Bengal,” Ms. Banerjee told mediapersons.

The TMC has expressed frustration with the seat-sharing talks, where it has offered two seats to the Congress, which had demanded six. Of the 42 MPs that West Bengal sends to the Lok Sabha, just two — from the Baharampur and Malda Dakshin seats — are currently from the Congress; 23 are from the TMC.

The Congress continued to cling to hope for a way forward in the discussions with the TMC, with communications chief Jairam Ramesh stressing that both parties were engaged in a fight against the BJP.

INDIA’s future at stake

Ms. Banerjee also expressed her displeasure that the Congress had not informed her that its ongoing Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra would enter West Bengal. “Even as a matter of courtesy they didn’t tell that they are coming to my State. I am part of INDIA alliance,” she said. The Congress yatra is scheduled to enter the State on January 25.

Reiterating that the TMC is a secular party, Ms. Banerjee said that would decide the party’s future path after the election. “At the all-India level what we will do, we will think after elections. We are secular party and will do anything to defeat the BJP,” she said.

Asked whether she would continue to be part of the Opposition’s INDIA bloc, Ms. Banerjee emphasised that the alliance is not made of one party. “The regional parties, we will be all together. We have said they [Congress] should fight alone in 300 seats, and leave the remaining to regional parties where they should not interfere. If they interfere in the remaining seats, then we will think otherwise,” the West Bengal CM said.

‘Mamata is a respected leader’

In an initial reaction to her remarks, the Congress communications chief expressed hope that some way forward would emerge after discussions, placing hope on Ms. Banerjee’s determination to fight the BJP. Describing the Chief Minister as a respected leader, Mr. Ramesh said that Congress leaders such as Sonia Gandhi and president Mallikarjun Kharge have good ties with the Trinamool chairperson.

Ms. Banerjee’s remarks come a day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that his party was in talks with the TMC over seat-sharing in West Bengal. Mr. Gandhi has said that he has good relations with the TMC chairperson, but State leaders of both parties have been targeting each other over the past few weeks. While the TMC has accused the Congress of unrealistic bargaining, the Congress has said that the TMC needs it more in the elections.

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