Congress West Bengal formula to be decided on Friday

After Bihar loss, Rahul takes stock of poll preparedness in Assam, TN

New Delhi:  Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is set to take stock of the preparations for the West Bengal assembly elections on Friday. The state is scheduled to go to the polls next year.

The meeting will discuss the proposed alliances in the state with like minded parties and will be attended by West Bengal in-charge Jitin Prasada, Congress state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and the Congress Legislature Party leader Abdul Mannan and will be held virtually. However, Mannan has tested positive for Covid.

The 294-member assembly will be going to the polls early next year. While the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has the challenge to save its government, the Congress also has to retain its ground. In 2016 the Congress fought in alliance with the Left parties and secured 44 seats becoming the second largest party but half of its MLAs have since joined the TMC.

The Congress is also facing the BJP which has made inroads in the state winning 18 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections. The Congress is in a dilemma over whether to go with the Left or the TMC. Its state leaders have been talking to the Left leaders informally about a seat sharing agreement but nothing has been finalised, said sources.

Two senior Congress leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Deepa Das Munshi are against the TMC while the CLP and some MLAs are not averse to joining hands with the TMC if it gives a fair deal to the Congress, sources said.

The Congress leaders are insisting on finalising the alliance soon to start preparing for the elections. The Left and the Congress held a joint rally on November 23.

As many as 90 segments in the 294-member West Bengal assembly have sizeable Muslim voters, who can be a deciding factor in any poll battle. Even if the AIMIM may not win many seats in Bengal, it can surely play a Bihar-like spoilsport for the TMC and the Congress.

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has said that AIMIM leader Owaisi is out to benefit the BJP. On the other hand, Owaisi denies the charge and said that he was running a political party and will contest elections wherever the party wishes.

Muslims in West Bengal account for 27 per cent of the total voters, a majority of them going along with the TMC and the Congress. The BJP won 18 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections and any further division of Muslim votes in the Assembly elections will only benefit it.

The districts of Murshidabad, Malda, and North Dinajpur have more than 50 per cent Muslim population while Birbhum, North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah and Nadia have more than 25 per cent Muslims.