Cong, Left tie-up in Bengal RS polls

 With the nomination for the first four seats to the Rajya Sabha set on course, the fight that is drawing all the attention in West Bengal’s corridors of power is the tussle for the fifth seat. With the election to Rajya Sabha imminent, the Congress and the Left are all set to ensure that the fifth candidate is not from the ruling Trinamool Congress.

While Trinamool candidates will win the first three Rajya Sabha seats up in the state by virtue of sheer numbers, and the Left likely to win the fourth seat, both the Congress and Left are in talks to ensure that they stand behind a candidate who could win the fifth seat. For now, the name of state Congress leader Abdul Mannan is doing the rounds.

While behind-the-scene machinations are on, insiders believe that for the sake of finding common grounds, even the Left could support Mannan’s candidature, which could be a thorn by the Trinamool Congress’ side, as he is known to be a vocal critic of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

According to sources, Mannan is also emerging as the natural choice as his is a rare case a Muslim leader from the Congress who would get support from the Left.

Insiders point out that while the Trinamool Congress has posed as candidates film star Mithun Chakraborty, prominent artist Jogen Chowdhury and businessman politician K D Singh, their fourth candidate is Ahmed Hasaan, a journalist who runs Kalam, a Bengal daily that highlights issues related to minorities, particularly Muslims. Left and Congress leaders, however, refuse to admit that Hasaan would be a challenge.

While the Left has often played to the galleries by putting up candidates to indulge particular social groups, the CPM is feeling out of place with the Trinamool Congress walking the same path.

The Congress, on the other hand, is out of options, with only Mannan fitting the bill. Sources say the Congress and the Left have already started negotiations as neither can support a candidate put up by the ruling party.

Insiders say that senior CPM leader Gautam Deb recently met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi to discuss nuances of Bengal politics and possibilities of an alliance or arrangement at the opportune moment.

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