Meek acceptance

The Congress did not have any option left in West Bengal but to capitulate to the take-it-or-leave it attitude of Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee in their seat-sharing deal. Considerations of practical politics made it accept Mamata’s offer of 65 of the 294 seats in the state assembly against its original demand for 98 seats.

The party’s claim to one-third of the seats did not reflect its strength in the state. Ever since Mamata had left the Congress about 12 years ago and formed her own party the Congress has been fast sliding in the state. In fact the party had lost its bearings even before that. It was inconceivable that Mamata would give any major room for the Congress after she built up her party and is now within sight of capturing power.

The Trinamool leader was willing to give even less to the Congress but added one more seat to her last offer of 64 and the Congress had to meekly accept it. Everyone knew that the Congress threat of contesting all the seats was an empty one. Its request to contest some seats in and around Kolkata was also not conceded. The closest it got was a seat 40 km away from the city. Even there it has no chance of victory as it is a CPM stronghold.

It also had to give up as many as five seats which it had actually won last time. But the Congress still would not have much to complain about. It could not break away from the alliance because the UPA government at the Centre is dependent on the support of the Trinamool Congress. The UPA government is equally dependent on the DMK but it could afford to take a hard stance in its seat-sharing talks in Tamil Nadu because the DMK is dependent on the party’s support in the state. Mamata’s prospects of victory in West Bengal may also be brighter than the DMK’s in Tamil Nadu.

There is naturally some disenchantment and resentment within the state Congress over the raw deal it got and the humiliation it has suffered. But electoral deals are not made of sentiments. The general mood in the party would be one of  grudging acceptance of the ground realities. After all it is not a very bad bargain, especially because there is hope of being on the ruling side after many decades in the wilderness.

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