Out of the DMK frying pan and into Mamata’s fire for Congress

March 9, 2011

Fresh from negotiating the continued support of one key coalition ally, Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party heavyweights must now tackle the demands of the more politically canny and locally powerful Mamata Banerjee.

India's Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee speaks before giving the final touches to the annual budget for the railways in New Delhi February 24, 2011. REUTERS/B Mathur

As the bleary eyes of Congress negotiators turned over the morning papers on Wednesday after almost two days of political horse-trading with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the relief of front page headlines declaring the Tamil Nadu party’s climbdown will have been cut short by the ominous presence of Banerjee and her own seat-sharing demands in the political minefield of West Bengal.

Banerjee, Railways Minister and leader of the opposition in West Bengal, is commonly referred to as “Didi” – Hindi for elder sister – and can often appear to be spearheading a one-woman party.

Negotiations with the Trinamool Congress, with the savvy Banerjee courting a burning desire to end 34 years of Left Front rule in the state, and sensing a weakened Congress party that needs to balance a continued parliamentary majority with a strong performance in the state elections, may make the talks with the DMK look like a cakewalk.

As with the Tamil Nadu party, the simmering feud with Trinamool, which contributes 19 seats to the Congress-led coalition, comes down to seat-sharing in April’s state election. Banerjee has reportedly rejected demands from Congress to allow it to contest more seats than she is currently offering.

Banerjee’s current position- described as a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer – of 58 seats for Congress to contest, is short of the 98 demanded by Congress officials in the state. 294 seats will be up for election next month.

Central Congress figures have talked of 70-75 seats as an acceptable compromise, and while there are noises of Congress going it alone come April 18 – murmurs that also circulated during the DMK stand-off – most expect a deal to be hammered out soon.

Congress, seemingly weakened by the trials and tribulations of appeasing all players in its fragile coalition, has mooted plans of making inroads in states traditionally held by regional parties, with the hope of forming a majority single-party government at the 2014 election.

With its two most powerful allies threatening cabinet resignations and offering no-compromise seat agreements within days of each other, perhaps ensuring the stability of the current government should be priority number one.

4 comments

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Congress & BJP please stop depending on local parties for winning elections. You both are the only National Party contest the elections seperatley.

How long do you think the public will keep anyone of you out of power.I would say maximum 1 term not more than that.

The people of India have started to realise it better to count on a National party who considers India as whole while making polices than a government with allicances of Local parties who take advantage of the situation,which give the Local party who thinks their state is where India Begins and End.

Be Bold face the elections contest in all seats as congress or BJP dont depend on the Local parties.

Posted by Ranjudavis | Report as abusive

Its going to be fun.. Congress will be humiliated by Mamata if they demand like what they did for DMK.
DMK is licking the wounds after 2G scam DMK so only they succumbed to congress demands.
Wait and watch – DMK will hit back at congress with vengence if they get absoulte majority in TN elections.

Posted by amma | Report as abusive

The local Congress leaders who have been clamouring for 70-90 seats are “pimps”, nurtured by CPM over years. Many of them have not even won elections! They are best fitted for giving sound bites only!
On the contrary, Mamata Banjernee has struggled a lot to reach the current level of politics, wherein she enjoys significant clot in Bengal state politics. In the last to last Parliament election when Trinamool had to face a drubbing even then, she was the only trinamool MP from West Bengal.
She rose from grassroots level and during the course of time, she has proved to be a matured politician.
This time, she has high chances of winning Bengal State Assembly. However, if she wins, her biggest challenge will be to maintain discipline in her party by creating a second-rung leadership!

Posted by SaikatDas | Report as abusive

“With its two most powerful allies threatening cabinet resignations and offering no-compromise seat agreements within days of each other, perhaps ensuring the stability of the current government should be priority number one.”

The only thing that can be guaranteed is that there is absolutely no chance of the Centre falling apart on this issue. It was the DMK which gave in without a whimper not the Congress. However, it won’t be the same with Banerjee, she knows she is going to win and can call the shots and I am sure that eventually the Congress will accept her offerings.

This is simply hard bargaining before any election and reading too much into it is just filling up words and making copy.

More importantly, I would like the Bengal elections out of the way and Mamta crowned in Bengal. That will get her out of Delhi and maybe the nation will get a full time Railway minister. She has created a holy mess in Delhi and pity the guy who has to clean up after her. She has, however, made out a strong case of why coalitions should be discouraged. Gradually more and more people are beginning to realise this. Us non-Bengalis are thankful to her for having brought this to the surface.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive