CPM-Congress ties face litmus test in Rajya Sabha polls as alliance partners must decide on joint candidate for fifth seat from West Bengal

  • According to the distribution of seats in the present state Assembly, the TMC will get four Rajya Sabha seats, whereas a joint candidate of either the CPM-Congress or the TMC-Congress will have to win the fifth one

  • According to the CPM's West Bengal unit sources, the party is keen to nominate its general secretary Sitaram Yechury to Rajya Sabha from the state, with the help of the Congress

  • Congress, which had recently taken support of the TMC during the elections of their candidates Pradip Bhattacharya and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, has remained non-committal on putting up a joint candidate

Kolkata: The upcoming Rajya Sabha elections to five seats in West Bengal on 26 March are set to be a litmus test for the CPM-Congress ties in the state for the fifth seat.

According to the distribution of seats in the present state Assembly, the TMC will get four Rajya Sabha seats, whereas a joint candidate of either the CPM-Congress or the TMC-Congress will have to win the fifth one.

The BJP with just eight MLAs is not a contender.

 CPM-Congress ties face litmus test in Rajya Sabha polls as alliance partners must decide on joint candidate for fifth seat from West Bengal

File image of CPM leader Sitaram Yechury and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Since the Lok Sabha polls debacle, both the parties have been unitedly fighting against the TMC and the BJP in the state.

"There is a question mark regarding the fifth seat. One will win either as a joint candidate of TMC-Congress or of CPM-Congress. Let's see what happens, but we are keen on sending someone from our party to Rajya Sabha from Bengal," a senior CPM leader said.

"Earlier, on two occasions, we have seen the Congress took support of the TMC during the elections of their candidates Pradip Bhattacharya and Abhishek Manu Singhvi. This time, talks are on as we are already fighting together since the last Lok Sabha polls," the CPM leader said.

The state Congress leadership, however, has taken a "wait and watch" approach and is yet to commit anything.

"The final decision whether we would put up our candidate and seek support of the Left and the TMC, or we would support the CPM candidate is yet to be taken. The high command will take a final call on it," a senior state Congress leader said.

The TMC leadership said the party is yet to take a call on putting up a candidate for the fifth seat.

According to the CPM's West Bengal unit sources, the party is keen to nominate its general secretary Sitaram Yechury to Rajya Sabha from the state, with the help of the Congress.

Yechury had an excellent track record as a member of the Upper House of Parliament between 2005 and 2017, and the party is "eager to nominate him" in the Rajya Sabha elections to be held next month, state CPM sources said.

In 2017, his name had cropped up for re-election. Even then Congress president Rahul Gandhi was keen on supporting his nomination from West Bengal. But the CPM leadership had turned down the offer, citing party rules that no member would be nominated three times in a row for Rajya Sabha.

The rule of not allowing anyone to be a member of Rajya Sabha, beyond two consecutive terms, will not apply now as Yechury has already got a break since 2017.

A decision regarding this will be taken at party's next politburo meeting, sources said.

"If Yechury is the candidate, we don't think that we would have any problem, given the kind of equation he shares with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi," the Congress leader said.

Of the five seats which will fall vacant, four are presently held by Jogen Chowdhury, Manish Gupta, Ahmed Hassan Imran and KD Singh of the TMC.

The fifth seat is held by Ritabrata Bandopadhyay, who was earlier elected as a CPM nominee in 2014, but was expelled from the party in 2017.

Since his expulsion and post-2019 Lok Sabha polls, the CPM West Bengal unit does not have any representation in either Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. This has happened for the first time since the party's inception in 1964.

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Updated Date: Feb 26, 2020 23:02:46 IST


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