By Tirthankar Mitra
A fissure threatening to widen into a crack in ant-BJP INDIA coalition can be traced to the Left read CPI(M)even as it remains in the combine and its alliance with West Bengal unit of Congress is still in place. The CPI(M) has an alternative strategy up its sleeves for 2024 Lok Sabha elections in the event of Congress going along Trinamool Congress final touches would be put to this contingency plan when the Left hits the poll campaign trail with Indian Secular Front.
The plan B has been readied as seat sharing is likely to be in the agenda of talks of INDIA coalition at its next meet in Mumbai. The seat sharing negotiations are going to pursue the formula proposed by Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee which advocates that to take on the BJP effectively in every state, themain oppositionparty fightingthe BJPwill bethe deciderinrespectof seatsharing. That way, Trinamool Congress will be the leader of INDIA in Bengal and it will play the major roleindecidingonseats.
Going by this criteria, the lion’s share of seats will go to TMC in West Bengal. There is little chance of the CPI(M) let alone any of the other Left Front partnersbeing allotted seats as the Left drew a blank in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
On the other hand,with only Behrampore and Malda(south)in the Congress kitty after 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the grand old party may bargain for and get a few more seats from TMC in next year’s election in West Bengal. The TMC leadership is unlikely to be tightfisted as it would seek a few seats from Congress in north eastern states where the former is long seeking a toehold.
The CPI(M)’s policy is to fight both the Trinamool Congress and the BJPinthe state likethepartyis doingin Kerala. Small wonder, its leadership has seized the next best alternative of an electoral tie-up with ISF.
State CPI(M) chief Md Salim ha already announced that there will be no retracting of the ongoing anti-TMC agitations in the state. In the back drop of the state of national politics, it may strike a discordant note to the other members of the INDIA coalition, butthe CPIM) positionisthat this isa statespecific issueand notincontrarytoits policyoffighting the BJPonnationalplaneasapartofINDIA.
With ISF’s growing influence among Bengali speaking Muslims, the CPI(M)’s choice of poll partner cannot be faulted. OnceCongress who had contested the state Assembly and rural polls with the Left seeks to part company, the latter has an ally in ISF who has been triedand tested.
Hitting the poll campaign trail running for the first timein 2021 Assembly elections,the ISF has alreadymade its presence felt in the state. Despite being represented by a single MLA Naushad Siddiqui in the state Assembly, the area of ISF’s influence isbeyond itsnumerical strength.
The Left plan of action is based on hard rocks. Influence of Congrrss in its erstwhile strongholds in Murshidabad, Malda and Dinajpur(north) haveerodedunder TMC onslaughtas the election results indicate.
These districts are mostly inhabited by minority community populace considered to be Congress vote banks. If Congress adheres to a claim of its support base being intact, it will lack credence.
The ISF on the other hand, has dug in its heels into both parts of 24 Parganas and Howrah. Requesting anonymity, a senior CPI(M)leader felt it is better for the party to close ranks with ISF in south Bengal districts as both the BJP and Trinamool presence is far ahead of the Left in north Bengal.
To zero in on to specific spheres of ISF influence, Diamond Harbour and Basirhat may be cited. The CPI(M) leadership’s poll game plan includes starting the programme of turn around in the state from these pockets.
An election alliance between the CPI(M) and ISF in south Bengal will help the former recover somelost groundbutthatwill notbe adequate for the Party to get any seat in the coming Lok Sabha polls. If there is a Congress-Left alliance as before, the Left, mainly the CPI(M) cannot be sure of any safe seat but at least the CPIM) candidates can beat a striking distance of victory in two to three seats. The Left on its own has no Lok Sabha constituency in Bengal now where it can mobilise more than 20 percent votes in 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress has high command is continuously assessing the situation in Bengal and its own preliminary report shows that the Congress has much better chances of getting seats in Lok Sabha in alliance with the TMC rather than continuing as a part of Congress-Left alliance. Some and fight both the BJP and the TMC. But Rahul Gandhi is looking at the long term prospects of the party in Bengal and the political mood of the state leaders and cadres. The Congress hih command will come to some final view before the next meeting of INDIA in September in Mumbai.
Inany case, the CPIM) in Bengal has to be prepared for a hard time before the Lok Sabha elections. Oncethe momentum for campaigning starts, it will be INDIA vs. NDA or in Bengal Narendra Modi vs. Mamata. The others in the fray will remain irrelevant to the voters who will be polarised totally. The Left including the CPIM) will be constrained to retain some of its supporters who may vote for mainline INDIA forgetting their reservations against the TMC.(IPA Service)