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Congress tries to keep TMC in good humour

Kolkata: With the presidential elections slated for July, Congress party, which did not shrink from criticising the Trinamool Congress in the past on several issues, today sought to keep its ally in good humour, saying the last thing it wants is a vote split in the panchayat polls.

"Congress will make every effort to defeat the CPI(M). If we think that the fight between Congress and Trinamool Congress would strengthen the hands of the CPI(M), we will try to avoid that," chief spokesperson of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Abdul Mannan told PTI.

"This will be the guideline to our partymen in the districts during the panchayat polls," Mannan, who had recently called on Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee to update them on the current state of affairs in Bengal, said.

Reminded that Congress MP and Murshidabad DCC president Adhir Chowdhury had declared that his party would contest the panchayat election in Murshidabad district on its own, he said, "The Congress has a strong support base in that district and the TMC is weak there. Trinamool Congress should also reciprocate".

Apparently under pressure from Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, the Congress had asked its candidate Mannan to withdraw from the Rajya Sabha elections in West Bengal in the recently concluded Rajya Sabha poll. Party insiders here said the Congress would need the TMC`s help in the upcoming presidential and vice-presidential elections.

Asked if Mamata`s recent announcement of a slew of sops for the imams of the state ahead of the panchayat polls would help her party get more votes, Mannan said, "Muslims were neglected during the Left Front rule and history will say whether such move was pragmatic or politically motivated".

Mannan`s comment appeared not in sync with state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharjee`s comment here recently that the PCC won`t impose its decision on alliance on its workers. "These are local elections and the village level party workers will have to decide whether they want alliance or not," he said.

The panchayat polls due in May next year are regarded as the first trial of strength of the major parties before the Lok Sabha election in 2014. The Trinamool Congress has, however, recently hinted that the polls would be advanced.

After a party meeting on April 7, TMC general secretary Mukul Roy had said no decision had been taken on an alliance with the Congress for the panchayat polls. "In 2008, we went it alone in the panchayat polls, but for the Lok Sabha polls a year later we had an alliance with the Congress. Similarly, in the 2010 municipal polls, we contested on our own and went for an alliance during the Assembly elections. It depended on the situation", Roy had said.

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