By Tirthankar Mitra
INDIA, the anti-BJP alliance, seems to be going downhill in West Bengal even as next year’s Lok Sabha elections are inching closer. It is difficult nay a well nigh impossible political proposition now for the three INDIA alliance partners namely Congress, CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress to find common ground in the state before Lok Sabha polls..
CPI(M) general secretary, Sitaram Yechury has made it clear at the recent plenum of the state unit that TMC cannot be an alternative to BJP. In fact, it is not beyond TMC to make compromises with BJP-led NDA as it had done in the past, he added.
Thus the fissures which already existed between the Trinamool and an alliance between the CPI(M) and the Congress widened into cracks recently. CPI(M) general secretary, Sitaram Yechury ruling out in unambiguous terms the possibility of any alliance of his party with the TMC has also queered the pitch for the Congress.
Accustomed to participate in anti-government agitations with Left Front constituents’ activists for years, the Congress activists of the state had willy-nilly joined in anti-BJP stirs with the Left activists. After all, they had allegedly been at the receiving end of the atrocities of the state’s ruling party activists for years.
And in going through this ordeal, the Congress rank and file had been in the same boat as their CPI(M) counterparts. Loath to part company with the front activists with whom a camaraderie of sorts have developed with Congress rank and file, the latter have found a rationale to stay away from TMC followed by Yechury’s remark.
To call spade by no other name, the TMC rank and file too was not quite comfortable in the company of Left supporters, the political activists who had been their sworn ideological opponents till the other day. So the parting if inevitable is by no stretch of imagination a heart breaking affair.
As for the Congress, some of its senior leaders like former leader of the Opposition, Abdul Mannan who had been a driving force in navigating a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) into Saradha chit fund scam and getting a Supreme Court direction for a CBI investigation had not advocated any alliance with Trinamool Congress. The Saradha PIL in which the petitioners were represented by Bikas Ranjan Bhattacharya, a senior advocate and CPI(M) leader cemented the relation between the two ideologically divergent outfits. Congress and the CPI(M)
Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and PCC chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury too may hold identical views with Mannan but has not voiced them for tactical reasons. After all, TMC has spread its sphere of influence in extensive parts of his onetime fiefdom Murshidabad of which his own constituency Berhampore belongs. Last panchayat results showed that the TMC was far ahead in Adhir’s constituency in terms of votes polled as against the combined votes of the Congress and te CPI(M).
Having contested successive elections with CPI(M) since 2016, the Congress finds the former to be a tried and tested ally. This is the principal reason of its unwillingness to part company with the Left in the next Lok Sabha elections despite the continuing reverses in the recent polls. The party leadership, including Adhir will opt for the Congress-Left alliance rather than tie up with TMC unless the high command forces the Bengal unit to agree to tie up with the TMC in the interest of getting some sure seats which are very vital for the Congress.
Unlike the CPI(M), the Congress, has not laid all its cards on the table for this reason. They are waiting for the signal from the Congress high command.. Political compulsions at the national level come in its way of action in West Bengal. The final decision will depend on the assessment of the central leadership about the electoral prospects of the Congress-Left tie up as against TMC-Congress alliance from the view of the Congress interest..
Sources in Congress say that the high command is expected to take a decision only in the second week of December after the results of the assembly polls are out on December 3.The next meeting of the INDIA bloc is expected to be held around that time. The Congress leadership including both Rahul Gandhi and the president Mallikarjun Kharge will be taking a decision after talking to the TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee. The Bengal in charge of the Congress on behalf of the high command, has been preparing a report on the party’s electoral prospects based on both the options.
Unfazed by Yechury’s stand, the TMC leadership is not quite concerned about it. After all, the ruling dispensation feels that the other INDIA constituents need TMC support more to fight BJP in the state than the other way around.
Both the Congress and Left Front have no legislator in the state Assembly. The two MPs which Congress has in the state will sorely need the organisational support of the ruling dispensation to retain their seats. In the recent Dhupguri by election to the state assembly, the combined votes of the Congress and the Left touched only 6 per cent of the votes while the TMC candidate defeated the sitting BJP candidate.
Therein lies the reason why the Congress is yet to make a clean breast of its dissociation from TMC in the state. The TMC too being on the lookout for the status of a national party is not needling Congress in this matter..The TMC has already prepared a list of 42 candidates for 42 constituencies in the state. IF understanding is reached with the Congress, few seats, not more than five, it is told, will be left for Congress. This offer of TMC is linked with the understanding on seat sharing in the North Eastern states.
State BJP leadership does not seem to attach much importance to CPI(M)’s renewed stand in West Bengal. The INDIA alliance has had fissures since it’s inception and cannot hold together in the long run, former state BJP chief Rahul Sinha said. . BJP is preparing to fight TMC tooth and nail.TMC spokesman Kunal Ghosh said about Congress-CPI(M) alliance as 0 plus 0 is equal to 0. For the final scenario to emerge about alliance in Bengal, everyone is waiting for December. (IPA Service)