Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has asked the Congress for one Lok Sabha seat from Meghalaya and at least three from Assam. The Congress, while terming the demand “outrageous”, has turned down the Bengal leader’s demand.
Banerjee is learnt to have made this conditional to conceding more than the two seats she wants to allocate to the Congress in Bengal.
Senior Trinamool Congress leaders conveyed this demand (for seats in Meghalaya and Assam) to the Congress leadership.
They have also told the Congress leadership that Banerjee would be willing to allocate more seats to the Congress in Bengal if her demand for seats in the two northeastern states is accommodated by the Congress.
Banerjee had, earlier, declared that she would allocate two seats — Malda South and Baharampur — to the Congress to contest from. Both these seats were won by the Congress in 2019.
But the Congress has rejected the offer, terming it as “insulting”. Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, a fierce critic of Banerjee, has gone on record saying that if the Congress is not given at least seven to eight Lok Sabha seats in the state, it would go it alone in alliance with the Left.
“If the Congress wants us to accommodate it in Bengal, it (the Congress) should accommodate us in Assam and Meghalaya. That would be a real test of the coalition dharma that the Congress claims to adhere to. There has to be a give and take,” a Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP told Swarajya.
But Congress leaders in Assam and Meghalaya have reportedly said that the Trinamool Congress should not be given any seat.
Meghalaya has two Lok Sabha seats — Shillong and Tura. While state Congress chief Vincent H Pala is the sitting MP from Shillong, Agatha Kongkal Sangma of the National People’s Party (NPP) is the Tura MP. Sangma is the daughter of NPP founder Purno Agitok Sangma and her brother, Conrad Sagma, is the Chief Minister of the state.
Assam has 14 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP won nine of those, while the Congress won three, the AIUDF won one and one was won by an independent candidate in 2019.
“The Trinamool’s demand for one Lok Sabha seat from Meghalaya — Tura — and three from Assam is unwarranted and not based on ground realities. Trinamool has little presence in Assam and it exists in Meghalaya at the pleasure of (former chief minister) Mukul Sangma who broke away from the Congress,” said Assam Congress chairperson Debabrata Saikia.
Saikia told Swarajya that Trinamool Congress leaders from Bengal engineered defections from the Congress in Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.
“That is how the Trinamool Congress came into existence in the three states. It has not grown organically in these states and does not have the any roots in this region that the Congress does,” said Saikia, son of former Assam chief minister Hiteswar Saikia.
North East Congress Coordination Committee (NECCC) convenor Pradyut Bordoloi, who is also the Lok Sabha MP from Nagaon (Assam), said that the Trinamool’s “murky politics” which has harmed the Congress in the region rules out any accommodation with the “Bengal-based party” in the region.
“The Trinamool Congress wants to grow by leveraging our strength. Why should we allow that? It harms us by luring away people from our party, and then expects us to accommodate their demands. That cannot happen,” said Bordoloi.
He added that Banerjee has “zero influence” beyond Bengal and her party should keep that in mind before making “unreasonable demands”.
Ronnie V Lyngdoh, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader in Meghalaya, spoke in the same vein.
“No one had heard of the Trinamool Congress in Meghalaya before it suddenly arrived on the political scene by engineering defections from our party,” Lyngdoh told Swarajya.
Former Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma, along with 11 of the 17 Congress MLAs, joined the Trinamool in November 2021.
Banerjee, her nephew Abhishek and a host of top Trinamool leaders campaigned extensively in the February 2023 assembly elections in the state. Banerjee claimed that her party would form the government in the state.
But her dreams came crashing down with her party winning only five seats. Since then, many Trinamool leaders have returned to the Congress or joined other parties, including the BJP.
There has been a lot of speculation that even Mukul Sangma, along with the other four MLAs of the party, will leave the party and join the BJP.
But Trinamool leaders of Bengal argue that while it won five assembly seats in Meghalaya, it was the runner-up in 10 seats.
“Our vote share in several assembly seats (in Meghalaya) was much more than that of the Congress. We did well in the Garo Hills and that’s why we want to contest from the Tura seat,” said the Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP.
In Assam, he said, the Congress has lost the stomach to fight the BJP.
“Only the Trinamool can fight the BJP, and the people of Assam are realising that. We are growing in Assam and so we want to contest from three seats,” the Trinamool MP, who is a close confidante of Banerjee, said.
The Congress’ National Alliance Committee headed by Mukul Wasnik has rejected the Trinamool’s demand. Wasnik is believed to have told Trinamool leaders that their demand (for Lok Sabha seats in Assam and Meghalaya) does not merit consideration.
But the Trinamool is persisting with the demand and has conveyed it to Sonia Gandhi.
Congress leaders say that the Trinamool’s insistence on seats in the North East is creating bad blood in the INDI Alliance.
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