Will the Congress be able to repeat DMK negotiations with Mamta Banerjee ? Unlikely.

Inspite of all the controversies and pressures that the Congress has got into due to the various allegations of corruption, the adverse judgment by the Supreme Court on the CVC issue, and so on, it managed to drive a tough bargain with DMK’s Karunanidhi in terms of getting the best ever deal for seat-sharing (and some say in the allocation of favorable seats). The Congress was able to push its weight to an extent that some of the other partners of the DMK were forced to concede 1-2 seats. Of the major states going to the polls, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala are the major ones. In Kerala, the Congress is the senior partner; which leaves West Bengal where there is a strong chance to unseat the Left parties that have been holding onto power for more than 3 decades. In the past couple of years, the performance of Mamta’s Banerjee TMC has been much better than that of the CPM (and other associated parties), and hence it seems like this year will be the one for Mamta.
The big question for the Congress is about what such a win will bring to its kitty ? The TMC projects itself to be the senior partner of the alliance, and with a strong mood shift in favor of the TMC, has also a high degree of confidence. In addition, Mamta Banerjee is not struck by any of the corruption taint that seems to have caught the DMK pretty badly. All this is affecting the Congress. In fact, even as the Railway Minister, it is common knowledge that the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister are not able to get their own way in terms of the Railways and have to negotiate with Mamta Banerjee if they want something.

The Congress was hoping to be able to strike a tough bargain, but current indicators are that the TMC is in no mood to listen to the hopes and wishes of the Congress, and will play the decisive role in terms of deciding how many seats the Congress will get, and more importantly, which ones. So, for example, the Congress is not expected to get any seats in Kolkata, more likely to be given seats in North Bengal where it has some influence. And the Congress cannot do anything about this. Being able to influence Mamta Banerjee is a fairly difficult task, and with the recent success of the TMC in polls such as the municipal ones, and also because the TMC has been able to meet the violence unleashed by the CPM, the Congress seems resigned to play second fiddle.

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