Lok Sabha polls: Cong-TMC revive seat-sharing talks

Congress likely to settle for five seats in West Bengal

Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee (File) Rahul Gandhi; Mamata Banerjee

Seat-sharing discussions between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress for the coming Lok Sabha elections are learnt to have been revived, with a final outcome of the talks hinging on a resolution over the Tura constituency in Meghalaya.

After what appeared to be a complete breakdown of alliance discussions between the Congress and the TMC, it now seems that a seat-sharing adjustment between the two parties could still be worked out.

According to sources, the Congress is hoping for a “respectable number” of seats in West Bengal, while the TMC has demanded two seats in Assam and one seat in Meghalaya. The TMC has so far insisted, publicly as well as in internal discussions, that the Congress merits only two seats in West Bengal. However, the Congress, whose original demand was around ten seats, is now expecting to get around five seats. Amongst the seats that the Congress is keen on contesting are Darjeeling, Purulia and Raiganj. The Congress had won two seats in the 2019 elections – Berhampore and Maldaha Dakshin.

It is learnt that the TMC is insisting on getting Tura in Meghalaya in its share. As per sources, the party could still relent on its demand for seats in Assam, but insists that its claim on Tura is non-negotiable. The TMC's argument is that its candidate had secured a 28 per cent vote share in the 2019 election as compared to the Congress' nine per cent. However, the Congress's counter-argument is that the Trinamool candidate was originally a Congress member. However, as per highly placed sources in the Congress, if push comes to shove, the party could give up its claim on the constituency to make possible a seat-sharing arrangement with the TMC.

Meanwhile in Maharashtra, the INDIA alliance is learnt to have completed discussions with regard to 39 out of the 48 seats in the state. As per sources, Prakash Ambedkar's Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi has demanded five seats, and that is delaying a final decision on the seat-sharing arrangement amongst the allies in the state.

It is learnt that a final decision has not yet been taken regarding Bharuch constituency in Gujarat and Congress is in discussions with AAP. It is learnt that former Congress President Rahul Gandhi does not want to give up Bharuch because of the association of the constituency with late party leader Ahmed Patel. The Congress has claimed an emotional connect with the constituency since it was in the past represented by Patel. The AAP, on the other hand, had declared its candidate for the seat even before the talks with the Congress began.

With the seat-sharing arrangement between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party finalised, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav will join Rahul for a public address in Agra during the course of the yatra on February 25.

Meanwhile, the Congress is keen that the rally in Mumbai marking the culmination of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is an INDIA event, with leaders from other alliance parties attending it. The yatra is expected to conclude in Mumbai either on March 14 or 15.

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