No 'hitch' with TC in West Bengal: Congress

"There is no hitch....every political party wants to increase its political space," party spokesperson Manish Tewari said in response to questions on delay in announcement of seat sharing by both parties even as the ruling CPI-M declared its candidates yesterday.

Tewari at the same indicated that hard bargaining will continue between the two parties till the last moment before a formal announcement is made.

He said that negotiations are done on a seat to seat basis and different parties in alliance naturally have different perceptions on each seat, which take time to settle down.

Sources, however, indicated that the difference over the number of seats has now narrowed down to just four or five seats and Congress could now be getting 68 seats.

Senior leaders of both the parties had a series of meetings yesterday to thrash out the differences with Union Ministers from Trinamool Congress Mukul Roy and Sultan Ahmed holding deliberations with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Congress Working Committee in-charge for West Bengal Shakeel Ahmed among others.

Sources said that Congress, which had started with a demand of nearly 100 seats, was finally agreeable to be contesting 70 plus seats, while Trinamool Congress increased its offer from 45 to 64 seats during various rounds of negotiations.

Pranab Mukherjee is likely to visit West Bengal in a day or two for final round talks with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, where both leaders can jointly announce seat sharing.

In the 294-member West Bengal assembly, Congress had won 19 seats while Trinamool had won 30 seats, when they had contested separately in 2006. In the last Lok Sabha elections, both parties contested together in which Congress fielded candidates on 12 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats there.

Tewari also downplayed questions on differences among party leaders in Assam, where the party has already declared candidates for 118 of the total 126 seats.

He said there are generally more than one claimant for each seat and those who do not get tickets are disappointed.

Asked whether the party would declare its Chief Ministerial candidates for the all the five poll-bound states, Tewari said different states have different realities but significantly added: "The Chief Minister is the face of the party" where the party has a government.

Tarun Gogoi is Chief Minister in Assam, where Congress is seeking a third term in power this election. "There is no uniform tablet, which can be used across all the five states," he added.

The Congress spokesperson also use the opportunity to highlight that BJP, which calls itself the largest opposition party, has very little presence in the five poll-bound states.

He said that the biggest characteristic in the five states West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puduchery, which together sends 126 MPs to Lok Sabha was that that BJP has "no trace" here.

Tewari said perhaps it was the realisation of this political reality that frustrates BJP,
which is reflected in the main opposition party "creating noise in and outside Parliament" and trying to make issues out of non issues.

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