KOLKATA

Poll maths: Seat-sharing talks with Siddiqui on, Congress asserts alliance large & secular

The seat-sharing talks between the Congress, Left Front and ISF — the newly formed outfit of Muslim cleric Abbas Siddiqui — for the West Bengal Assembly made some progress on Tuesday, according to party insiders.

Sources said that Congress, which had agreed to give five seats to the ISF, is now ready to give three more seats to the party launched by the Furfura cleric.

The ISF, on the other hand, is demanding three more seats, which is being opposed by the Congress.

“The negotiation is going on. The ISF’s demand cannot be fulfilled a hundred per cent, but we will try our level best,” said a CPI(M) leader involved in the negotiation.

“We are talking with the Congress also. We had earlier set aside some seats for the NCP, RJD and other parties, but since some of them are now willing to back the TMC, we are offering those seats to the Congress and other allies of us. We are hopeful that a solution will come out within a couple of days,” the CPI(M) leader said.

The progress in the talks comes amidst a bitter spat between West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Anand Sharma, a prominent member of the party’s dissident “G-23 group” who had said on Monday that such association with the ISF flew in the face of the core ideology of the Congress.

The Congress also came out in support of Chowdhury. The Congress said the “whole idea” of a “larger front” in West Bengal was to create “as far as possible to a maximum extent a good political fight against the BJP’s particularly vitiated brand of politics.”

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the Bengal Congress president has already explained the party’s position. Singhvi said the Congress had got the seats it had asked for in the alliance. “Secondly, a large front, a secular front has been created mainly to combat the BJP. Now, if one of the parties of that front, the CPM, decides to give some seats out of its own quota to what is called as the ISF, I think, the perspective is very different,” Singhvi said in New Delhi.

On Monday, the Congress said that it has finalised the seat-sharing agreement with the Left Front and would field candidates in 92 of the total 294 seats. Chowdhury also made it clear that if any other political parties join the alliance, then the seats would not be given to them from the Congress’s share.

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Meanwhile, the Congress constituted the party’s screening committee for West Bengal polls starting March 27 with Delhi leader J P Aggarwal as its chairman. The other members are Mahesh Joshi and Naseem Khan. The panel also has some ex-officio members, including the state PCC president and the AICC in-charge for West Bengal.

The ex-officio members include AICC in-charge of West Bengal Jitin Prasad, state PCC chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and CLP leader Abdul Mannan, besides the AICC secretaries in-charge for West Bengal.

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