Kolkata: Rubbishing allegations that the Congress "sold" the state unit to the Trinamool Congress, a party leader said that forging an alliance in West Bengal was necessary to do away with the impression that the Congress was shy of ousting the Left Front. "The alliance was the demand of the masses of Bengal. We don't want to see ourselves as a force opposed to change. We also want a change from the misrule of CPM," general secretary Shakeel Ahmed, who is the Congress in charge of the state, told IANS.
The Trinamool and the Congress are in an alliance to fight the April-May elections to dislodge the ruling Left Front led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM). Under the deal, the Trinamool will contest 226 seats and the Congress from 65 constituencies.
The Congress decision to yield three-fourths of the seats to the Trinamool sparked dissent, with several leaders alleging that senior party leaders had 'sold' the state party to the Trinamool.
Ahmed saw no merit in the allegation. "I don't agree with their perception or allegation. It is the duty of each and every Congressman to respect the alliance and work for the success of the alliance," he said.
Congress leaders like Shankar Singh of Nadia, M.P.S. Deepa Dasmunsi (wife of Priya Ranjan Dasmusnsi) and Murshidabad's Adhir Ranjan Choudhury openly spoke against the alliance and announced their support to Congress rebels.
The Congress last week suspended 12 rebel Congressmen contesting as independents but stopped short of taking action against leaders like Choudhury and Dasmunsi who have openly defied the party line.
Asked if the Congress was contemplating any steps against the defiant Congress MPs, Ahmed said: "They are not contesting. There is a charge that they are supporting and campaigning (for) the independents. It has not yet been proved."
Asked if he thought that 65 seats were enough for upholding the 115-year-old party's dignity, Ahmed said: "Each and every party wants more seats when they try to forge an alliance. But when we sit in the negotiating table and reach an agreement, both parties have to respect and work for it. The Trinamool started from 45, we started from 98. Then an agreement was reached on 65. Nobody forced us to forge the alliance at gunpoint."
Is it true that Rahul Gandhi is not happy with the seat sharing deal? Ahmed said: "He was not involved in the seat sharing talks. But like us Rahulji also wanted a bigger share of seats. But when we reached an agreement, we all followed the party decision and respected it. Rahulji also did the same."
When asked about the criteria of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's son Avijit getting a ticket within days of joining the Congress, Ahmed said: "If you belong to a political family and if it has done anything good for the society, the next generation will get the benefit. It is for people to decide whether he will sustain in politics or not."