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Newsmen Bureau

Kolkata, 01 February: ON whether there will be a tie-up between the Congress and the Left parties for the coming Assembly elections in West Bengal now solely rests with the Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

This after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today held a near two hour meeting at his New Delhi residence with the Congress leaders and elected representatives from Bengal.

Rahul had convened the meeting to decide on the party’s strategy for the Assembly polls due in April-May. All India Congress Committee general secretaries CP Joshi and Shakeel Ahmed were present in the meeting.

According to Bengal state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, “barring one or two,” all state Congress leaders have expressed their opinion to Rahul Gandhi in favour of an electoral tie-up with the Left, especially the CPI-M. “One or two leaders spoke in favour of contesting the polls on our own strength. But quite significantly, none did advocate for an alliance with the Trinamool,” he said.

Chowdhury refrained from naming the leaders who did not favour a tie-up with the Left, but sources said it were former state Congress president Manas Bhuniya and former Raiganj MP Deepa Dasmunshi who favoured a solo fight.

Bhuniya’s reasoning has been that it is CPI-M which has benefitted from the unofficial tie-up with Congress in Siliguri, and the same might happen in the Assembly polls. Dasmushi argued that contesting alone was necessary to assess the actual strength of the Congress in Bengal.

There is however a personal reason to Dasmunshi’s stand as she was defeated by CPI-M’s Md Selim in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Raiganj in North Dinajpur despite the district being a traditional stronghold of the Congress.

On the other hand, frontline leaders like Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya, Omprakash Mishra, Abdul Mannan and others said that a tie-up with the Left was must to stop Mamata Banerjee’s constant attempts at breaking away leaders from the Congress. In view of this overwhelming support from majority of the leaders, a tie-up between the Congress and the Left is now only a matter of time, observed a senior Congress leader.

“Rahul Gandhi has assured us today that the party high command would not impose its decision on us and rather the opinion of the state Congress leaders would be taken into account in deciding the party’s strategy. He has said that he would brief the Congress president on this and would call us for another round of meeting in Delhi after this,” Adhir Chowdhury said.

The alliance picture is expected to become clear by early next week.