Battle for Bengal: Deal through, Cong takes Mamata's 64 + 1

The Congress has been able to wrangle just one seat more than what Trinamool chief and Bengal poll ally Mamata Banerjee had offered it last Friday.

Mamata had given the party 64 for the upcoming West Bengal Assembly elections, but the final deal now stands at 227-65 with the addition of Canning East to the Congress' tally. Trinamool ally Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) will contest two.

Seat-sharing talks between the Congress and the Trinamool soured last week after Mamata unilaterally announced her list, giving the Congress only 64 seats in the 294 constituency Assembly.

Soon after Congress President Sonia Gandhi flew in from abroad on Monday morning, she put the contentious seat-sharing issue on fast-track.

Sources had told 'The Indian Express' that the Congress high command would abide by Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee's decision in order to avoid rampant division of the Left vote.

Sources said the Congress was also not likely to irritate its dominant ally in Bengal who is on the threshold of dethroning the Left after its uninterrupted run of 34 years in power.

Sonia Gandhi met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and her Political Secretary Ahmed Patel on Monday and thrashed out the best way to resolve the issue. The Congress had earlier wanted 90 seats but Mamata resolutely stuck to her 60-odd offer.

After his meeting with Sonia, Pranab Mukherjee spoke to Mamata on the phone and conveyed Gandhi's views on the issue.

At a press conference later, AICC spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said: "We expect the Congress-Trinamool alliance will give a chance to the people of Bengal to end the misrule of the Left."

Ahmed also insisted there was "no compromise" in the agreement.

"There is no question of a compromise or a surrender when two parties agree to a negotiated settlement. Everybody should honour it," Ahmed said.

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