WITH SEAT-SHARING talks in progress between the Indian Secular Front (ISF) and the Congress-Left parties, both the CPM and ISF are optimistic on firming up the arrangements in the run-up to the Assembly polls. According to sources, plans remain to be finalised only in two-three districts and ISF chief Abbas Siddiqui as well as the CPM have both claimed that their “mutual understanding” is “almost finalised”. However, the alliance’s plans also depend on whether the Congress, which is divided over the tie-up, eventually agrees to give ISF seats or not.
Meanwhile, the ISF called a rally in Dharmatala on Tuesday to demand repeal of the new farm laws and to protest against the increase in fuel prices.
Addressing the gathering, Siddiqui said, “If we finalise our seat-sharing before February 28, we will fill Brigade parade ground but if talks fail, we will not come.” He added, “I am not coming to Kolkata to become a leader or to make Bhaipo (referring to TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee). rich.”
Siddiqui lashed out at both BJP and TMC. Abbas said, “BJP is our clear rival and TMC is also our enemy… but with mask of friendship.” However, he pointed out that ISF “would not create any misunderstanding with AIMIM”.
The Congress is divided over the alliance. According to sources, senior party leader Abdul Mannan wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the manner. Mannan and Pradeep Bhattacharya, two members of the committee set up by the AICC to discuss the alliance, have met with the left and the ISF more than once. But they do not have the authority to make the final decision, the sources said. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Left and the ISF to “defend” themselves, the sources added.
Sources said Mannan wrote to Sonia apprising her about the situation, adding that the Congress and ISF had met 10 times recently. He and Bhattacharya were present in each of them while Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury was present only in three. They (Mannan and Bhattacharya) are being given the responsibility to negotiate but the solution they are proposing does not get accepted. As a result, the whole process has to be restarted, the letter said. Sonia has been told that the proposed alliance is being targeted by the top leadership of the BJP and the TMC, showing that those two parties are concerned. But Congress failed to take advantage of the situation, Mannan wrote.
A senior Congress leader said, “The CPM has a problem only with one seat in South 24 Parganas but our party leadership is not ready to spare any of the seats in Maldah, Murshidabad and South Dinajpur. These districts have sizeable Muslim population.”