TMC-Congress tussle bodes ill for the bloc
Two major constituents of the Opposition’s INDIA bloc, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), are at loggerheads over seat-sharing in West Bengal for the Lok Sabha elections. Reacting to reports that the TMC would spare only two seats for the Congress, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has said that the grand old party would not ‘beg for seats’. His statement has elicited a sharp response from the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC, which has asserted that ‘badmouthing alliance partners and seat-sharing can’t go hand in hand’.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the TMC bagged 22 seats and was followed closely by the BJP (18). The Congress, which had won two seats, now wants a bigger piece of the pie. The party needs to adjust its aspirations to the ground reality. The Congress had drawn a blank in the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections, which saw the Trinamool retaining power with a thumping majority. In March last year, the Congress had won the Sagardighi bypoll; Left-supported candidate Bayron Biswas had stormed the ruling party’s bastion. The victory had prompted Chowdhury to comment that the Trinamool and Banerjee were not invincible in the state. However, Biswas had later switched over to the TMC. The INDIA bloc was formed a few months after the bypoll, but the Congress and the TMC continue to work at cross-purposes.
The Congress’ apparent reluctance to take its allies along was cited as a major reason by the TMC for the former’s poll debacle in the Hindi heartland states last month. The Congress might be the biggest party within INDIA in terms of Lok Sabha seats, but its shrinking national footprint in recent years has considerably weakened its standing. The party should engage pragmatically with its partners to finalize seat-sharing at the earliest. Prolonged bickering and one-upmanship will only play into the hands of the BJP.