Left Front releases first list, rules out joint campaign with Congress

Kolkata : West Bengal's main opposition Left Front on Monday released its first list of 116 candidates that included former Asian Games gold medallist runner Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, and said talks were on "at a fast pace" for an understanding and not an alliance with the Congress, for the upcoming state assembly polls. LF chairman Biman Bose also ruled out any joint campaign with the Congress. "Discussions were on at a fast pace. We already have a front. Now we are forging a new front. Earlier we had parties like the Nationalist Congress Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal with us. Now the Janata Dal-United will be part of the expanded Left front. Some other parties are also keen to join," said Bose. Regarding the Congress, he said the LF was trying to work out an understanding with the Congress, which would ensure there was no split in anti-Trinamool Congress votes. "If the Congress has faith in the LF slogan of 'Trinamool hatao, Bangla bachao, and BJP hatao, desh bachao', it will be with us. We are trying to work out an understanding with the Congress, and neither a front, nor alliance. "Congress has ruled the state for long. Congress also had an electoral understanding with the Trinamool Congress in the past. Today we welcome the Congress if it shares our slogan against the Congress. But understanding does not mean an alliance or a front," said Bose. Ruling out any joint campaign with the Congress, the LF chairman said: "LF will campaign from LF platform, and Congress from its platform. There will be no platform sharing on the campaign trail". However, in the event of violence during the poll campaign, the LF, its associates and the Congress will rush to the spot without carrying the respective party flags. Bose mocked posters and graffiti linking the LF spearhead Communist Party of India-Marxist poll symbol sickle-hammer-star with the Congress' symbol hand. "This is not our stand. Sickle-hammer is sickle-hammer. Hand is hand." Asked to give details about its "understanding" with the Congress including if the Left will contest in all the 294 seats, Bose replied: "This is only the first list, there are more lists to come, you will get know all the details." Sikdar, a former CPI-M MP, would be in fray from Sonarpur North seat in South 24 Parganas district, while State CPI-M secretary Surjya Kant Mishra would contest from his old constituency of Narayangarh of West Midnapore district. Mishra, also the leader of the opposition in the assembly, is the only CPI-M politburo member from the state featuring in the first list. Bose also said it was a "political tradition" in Bengal of not projecting anyone as the chief ministerial candidate and refused to comment if Mishra would be the face of the coalition.  A significant feature of the list made public on the day was that 68 of the candidates were fist timers in assembly polls. The list includes 16 women, and 25 from the religious minorities. Among the candidates announced on the day, six are from Forward Bloc, five from the Communist Party of India (CPI), one each from Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) and the rest (113) from Front spearhead Communist Party of India-Marxist. The list also includes nine former state ministers and five former parliamentarians.  The state is slated to hold the seven-phase polls from April 4 to May 5.