West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee backs Congress in Rajya Sabha polls

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Kolkata | Published: July 28, 2017 6:47:29 PM

West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress on Friday extended its support to Congress candidate Pradip Bhattacharya for the coming Rajya Sabha polls, opening up possibilities of a new political alignment in the state.

Mamata Banerjee, Mamata Banerjee rajya sabha, Mamata Banerjee congress, Mamata Banerjee trinamool congress, West bengal, West bengal news, West bengal latest newsWest Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee (PTI)

West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress on Friday extended its support to Congress candidate Pradip Bhattacharya for the coming Rajya Sabha polls, opening up possibilities of a new political alignment in the state. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee earlier in the day held a meeting with Bhattacharya and Leader of Opposition Abdul Mannan. Emerging from the discussions, Bhattacharya said: “She announced full support to us. We have to win this election. So she will extend whatever help we need.” Bhattacharya said Banerjee also expressed her views about the national political developments.

“She talked about her views on the all India political situation, the direction in which things are moving. I am not in a position to talk about that. I am just a candidate. It is desirable to have discussions on these issues at the national level,” said Bhattacharya,

Earlier in the day, Bhattacharya filed his nomination — the last date for doing so — for the August 8 polls for six Rajya Sabha seats from West Bengal. Bhattacharya also took potshots at the Left Front, which fielded former city Mayor Bikash Bhattacharya as its candidate. “Those with whom we were in discussions, who had given their word, we had expected their backing and help,” said Bhattacharya.

However, Left Front Chairman Biman Bose told the media earlier on Friday that the coalition had to take a last-minute decision to field Bikash Bhattacharya after the Congress renominated sitting member Pradip Bhattacharya. A few months back, there were talks of the Congress supporting CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, if nominated by the party. However, Yechury’s candidature was shot down by his own party’s central committee.

“We (LF) were trying to zero in on an outstanding personality outside the periphery of party politics as a common candidate acceptable to all quarters (read Congress and LF). We lost two days looking for such a candidate,” Bose said. “We had no idea that Pradip Bhattacharya is contesting. That was announced unilaterally by them (Congress). So, we had to hold an emergency meeting and decide our candidate,” he added.

As per the West Bengal assembly arithmetic, five Trinamool candidates — Derek O’Brien, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy, Dola Sen, Manas Bhunia and Santa Chettri — are expected to sail through on the strength of the party’s numbers. The focus will now be on the sixth seat, for which Pradip Bhattacharya and Bikash Bhattacharya would duel it out.

After losing some of their lawmakers to the Trinamool, the Congress and Communist Party of India-Marxist are left with 36 and 31 legislators respectively. To win, a candidate needs 42 first preference votes in the 293-member assembly, the electoral college for the Rajya Sabha polls. With the Trinamool now extending support to the Congress, Pradip Bhattacharya looks favourite to make the cut with the help of the surplus votes of the ruling party.

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Banerjee, a staunch opponent of the Centre’s ruling BJP, has been for some time calling for a united fight against the saffron party.

During the July 21 party rally here, Banerjee kept mum on the Congress — her adversary in the state for the better part of the Trinamool rule, and announced that her party would stand behind all leaders, including Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, to combat the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Trinamool and the Congress also joined hands during the recent presidential elections. They have again come together for the coming Vice Presidential polls. The two parties had forged an alliance for the 2009 Lok Sabha and the 2011 state assembly elections, that brought the 34-year Left Front rule to an end.

While the Trinamool joined the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre, the Congress was part of the Mamata Banerjee government. However, the coalitions both at the Centre and in the state came apart in 2012. Since then, the Congress and the Trinamool have been opponents in the state. In the assembly polls last year, the Left Front and the Congress had cobbled up an alliance, which, however, came a cropper. Friday’s developments could prove a dampener on any coming together of the two in the near future.

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