Cracks in INDIA bloc wide open as Congress, TMC trade barbs over seat-sharing

"Congress won't beg for seats from the TMC," says Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Mamata Banerjee | PTI/Salil Bera Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Mamata Banerjee | PTI/Salil Bera

The cracks in opposition INDIA bloc have come wide open with the Congress and the Trinamool Congress—the two main constituents of the opposition alliance—sparring over seat-sharing in West Bengal.

The war of words escalated between the two parties on Thursday after Congress state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury scoffed at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s rumoured offer of two seats to the grand old party to contest in the Lok Sabha elections.

"Congress won't beg for seats from the TMC," Chowdhury said, drawing a sharp reaction from the state’s ruling party which said “badmouthing alliance partners and seat sharing talks can’t go hand in hand”.

Addressing a press conference in Murshidabad on Thursday, the Congress leader said the two seats Banerjee reportedly offered to his party were already with them.

"The true face of Mamata Banerjee is out. The Congress is not going to beg before TMC for seats; we don't need their alms. Who are they to decide how many seats the party will contest? If needed, we will fight on our own; let the party high command take a call on it," Chowdhury said.

The Congress leader said his party is quite capable of waging a solo fight in the state and winning more seats than they did last time. 

"It is Mamata who needs the Congress to win, not the other way around. We don't need Mamata's pity and are quite capable of retaining these two seats (even if the TMC contests them),"  Chowdhury further said.

The Congress state chief also alleged that the the TMC was not serious about strengthening or forging an alliance in West Bengal, but was busy pleasing and serving Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protect themselves from the clutches of the CBI and the ED.

Congress currently holds two seats in the state, both in minority-dominated districts of Malda and Murshidabad. The Trinamool Congress has 22 seats.

Reacting to Chowdhury’s criticism, the TMC urged Congress high command to rein in him if they were serious about the alliance.

Senior TMC MP Sougata Roy said, "Badmouthing TMC and our party supremo Mamata Banerjee and alliance can't go hand in hand. The regular insults hurled at us by Chowdhury and some leaders of the Bengal Congress have to stop if the party wants an alliance. The Congress high command must rein in Adhir Chowdhury if they want an alliance in Bengal."

Roy also dismissed reports that his party had offered only two seats to the Congress.

"Who told him that we have offered two seats? Our leader Mamata Banerjee has said that in Bengal, TMC will lead the fight, but across the country, it will be the INDIA alliance that will fight against the BJP,” he said.

The seat-sharing has become a thorny issue for the INDIA bloc with the Congress facing hard bargain from regional players in at least 3-4 states.

In Punjab, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party has decided to go solo in the elections while in Maharashtra, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena has demanded 23 seats.

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