The Congress on Monday said it has started informal seat sharing talks with the Left Front for the coming West Bengal assembly polls, but conceded there were "difficulties" in the way, even as the LF constituents seemed divided on how to get the ball rolling on an electoral pact.
An important LF partner, the Revolutionary Socialist Party said the coalition would meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue, in the wake of state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury's statement on Sunday calling for the unity of secular and democratic forces to take on the ruling Trinamool Congress and the "communal" Bharatiya Janata Party.
Though Chowdhury did not name either the LF or its spearhead, the Communist Party of India - Marxist, another senior Congress leader had made it clear that the state party chief's appeal was targeted at them.
But while the RSP on Monday welcomed Chowdhury's statement, another LF partner, the Communist Party of India said the Congress should approach the LF first with a formal proposal - instead of issuing statements - to set the alliance talks rolling.
State Congress general secretary and spokesperson Om Prakash Mishra said both camps were determined to seal off an understanding, but stressed the basis for the seat sharing lay in a "proportionate sharing of pain and pleasure".
"Informal talks with the Left Front have begun but there are difficulties on the issue of seat sharing. However, both the camps realise the fact that seat sharing has to be on the basis of proportionate sharing of pain and pleasure, ' Mishra told IANS.
"Both the camps are determined to reach at a conclusion, for our mutual goal is to dismantle the ruling Trinamool. The formal talks will begin very soon and we are confident of ironing out the differences, " he said.
The RSP said Chowdhury's statement indicated positive intent on the part of the Congress.
"We have gone through Adhir's statement and it signifies the Congress' positive intent. We are treating it as a formal proposal and initiated discussions in our party. The Front will be meeting on March 2 when we will discuss the issue, " RSP state secretary Kshiti Goswami told IANS.
He said the discussions would be long drawn, but hoped for a positive outcome.
"It will be a long drawn process, a lot of things need to be considered, and hopefully there will be a positive outcome. If an alliance happens it will be good. But if such an arrangement doesn't materialise, the Front is ready to take on the Trinamool on its own, " he added.
CPI state secretary Prabodh Panda said both camps need to approach each other formally and the Congress should take the first step.
"So far, there have only been speculations, suggestions or press statements. But unless there is a formal proposal from the Congress, how can there be an alliance?" Panda told IANS.
"If there has to be an alliance, people from both the camps need to act, but so far it has only been suggestions or leaders giving a public call, but nothing has been done formally, " said Panda, a former Lok Sabha member.
A meeting of Left Front constituents on February 11 put its stamp of approval on holding alliance talks with the Congress, but put the ball in the Congress court by saying it has to approach the combine first with the proposal.
On February 18, the CPI - M central committee sought the cooperation of all democratic forces to defeat the Trinamool in the coming assembly polls.