Mamata Banerjee, Winning 5 Bengal Rajya Sabha Seats, Suggests Meira Kumar For The 6th

The Congress, with 44 legislators in West Bengal, can win the sixth seat on its own, but is yet to respond to Mamata Banerjee who said the Trinamool Congress will "welcome" the party fielding Meira Kumar

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Mamata Banerjee, Winning 5 Bengal Rajya Sabha Seats, Suggests Meira Kumar For The 6th

The opposition's candidate Meira Kumar lost the presidential election recently (File)

Kolkata:  From one of the most predictable elections of all, one out of six seats from West Bengal to the Upper House of parliament has suddenly put several political parties in a spin. The Bihar drama is only adding to the confusion over that seat. The other five are virtually in the bag for the Trinamool, given its huge majority in the state Assembly.

The spin peaked with Sitaram Yechuri, CPM general secretary, expected to contest the sixth seat and sail into Rajya Sabha. But today, told no, he could not contest, by his own party. The refusal came formally this evening. But word was out last night, prompting Mamata Banerjee, perhaps, to say, if Congress wanted to field Ms Meira Kumar for Rajya Sabha from West Bengal in that sixth seat, the Trinamool Congress would welcome it. 

Meira Kumar, former speaker of the Lok Sabha, fielded by the 17 Opposition bloc - including Congress, Trinamool and the CPM - lost to Ram Nath Kovind in the polls for India's 14th President. 

The Congress is yet to name Ms Kumar as candidate. If it does, if Ms Kumar agrees to contest and if the CPM is agreeable to her candidature, then the sixth seat is hers.

But the Left Front called an emergency meeting in Kolkata this evening and may field a candidate of its own for the sixth seat. If that happens, Trinamool sources say they too will field one of their own. Then first preference and second preference votes could turn into a total muddle, say analysts.

"There is a lot of speculation about the sixth candidate," said Trinamool MP Derek O'Brien after he filed his nomination to the Rajya Sabha himself at the West Bengal Assembly. "Meira Kumar, yes. We have had a few discussions with the Congress. But eventually it is for the Congress and the CPM to work out how they want to work it out," he added.

Hours later, a CPM statement said, "The Central Committee has rejected the proposal of the West Bengal State Committee to propose Sitaram Yechury for the third term in the Rajya Sabha. The Central Committee is of the opinion that an acceptable independent candidate by the opposition parties in West Bengal may be fielded, failing which the West Bengal Left Front Committee will consider contesting."

Officially, the reason was Mr Yechuri has his hands full running the party as general secretary. But a key reason is, the party did not want to take support from the Congress in West Bengal -- which it would have to -- because the Congress is its main political rival in Kerala. 

Now, according to sources, even if the defeat of its candidate is a foregone conclusion, the Left will contest the sixth seat. 

In this volatile situation, absolute uncertainty prevails. When Mamata Banerjee backed Ms Kumar, the unspoken message was, Trinamool has reservations about other probable Congress candidates. Deepa Das Munshi, former Lok Sabha MP from north Bengal who is viewed as a Mamata baiter, was a name doing the rounds. The Trinamool would oppose her candidature.

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What is certain, however, is Trinamool's five Rajya Sabha nominees will romp home. Besides Mr O'Brien, the candidates are sitting MPs Sukhendu Shekhar Roy and Dola Sen. The new faces are Shanta Chettri from Darjeeling who was earlier an MLA with the hill party, GNLF, and Dr Manas Bhuian, a veteran Congress leader and sitting MLA who broke with the party and joined the Trinamool Congress. 

The Congress, with 44 legislators in West Bengal, can win the sixth seat on its own, but is yet to respond to Mamata Banerjee's suggestion and name Ms Meira Kumar as candidate. 

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