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Abbas Siddiqui’s ISF Seals Seat-sharing Deal with Left in Bengal, Talks on with Congress

The Indian Secular Front (ISF), led by Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif, said on Friday that it has sealed a seat-sharing agreement with the Left Front for the West Bengal assembly elections, while talks with the Congress are underway. Addressing a press conference, Siddiqui said the Left Front has agreed to leave for it 30 seats as part of the Left-Congress-ISF alliance.

”We have already sealed our alliance with the Left Front. We have got 30 seats as per our choice and are in talks regarding three-four more,” he said. ”The discussions are still on with the Congress as the seat-sharing deal is still not clear. In total, from both the parties, we had demanded around 70 seats, including the Nandigram seat,” Siddiqui said.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will be the Trinamool Congress candidate from Nandigram. Siddiqui said that ISF does not have any intention to derail the alliance with Congress.

”We don’t want to derail this alliance, but we have our demands. We are accommodative and flexible. We want the alliance with the Congress to get concluded as early as possible,” he said. Siddiqui, who ditched AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi for the alliance with Left-Congress, also announced that the ISF would take part in the mega rally at Brigade Parade Grounds in Kolkata on February 28, being organised by the Left-Congress.

According to Congress sources, the ISF has demanded a few seats in Malda and Murshidabad that the Congress won in the 2016 assembly polls. ”The ISF is demanding some of the seats that we had won last time. It is tough for a political party to part with seats it had won in the last election. Let’s see what happens,” a Congress leader said.

Siddiqui joining the Left-Congress alliance has given it an edge in the West Bengal polls, which is being seen mostly as a bipolar contest between the Trinamool Congress and BJP. Siddiqui, a pirzada at one of the holiest shrines among Bengali Muslims, launched the ISF last month. He created a flutter by meeting Owaisi ahead of the elections but ditched him for the Left-Congress.

West Bengal has 30 per cent Muslim population — a deciding factor in around 100-110 seats. ”The inclusion of the ISF in the alliance has provided an added edge to the third force in Bengal ahead of the polls.

We are confident that it would no longer be a two-cornered contest,” senior CPI(M) leader Tanmoy Bhattacharya said. In case of a close contest, the Left-Congress-ISF alliance will become a deciding factor.

In 2016, the Congress and Left Front had fought together and bagged 77 seats in the 294-member assembly. The alliance broke after the CPI(M)-led Left Front walked away. During the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the proposed Congress-Left alliance fell apart after the parties could not agree on seat sharing.

After the dismal performance of the two sides in the Lok Sabha polls, the Left-Congress decided to stitch an alliance to fight the 2021 assembly polls. The seat-sharing negotiations between the Left and the Congress have been finalised and details will be announced once the ISF-Congress talks conclude, sources said.

Elections for the West Bengal assembly will be held in eight phases, up from seven last time, beginning with polling for 30 seats on March 27.

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