By Tirthankar Mitra
Congress-Left Front alliance in West Bengal received an unexpected jolt following the defection of Sagardighi MLA Bairon Biswas to ruling Trinamool Congress. The shake-up coming days before an Opposition meet against BJP in Patna has put the alliance forged in the summer of 2016 under a scanner.
Cobbled together before the 2016 Assembly elections, it fetched Congress the coveted post of leader of the Opposition with Sreerampore MLA veteran Congress leader, Abdul Mannan being nominated to it. The Left had no quarrel with it as Congress had won more seats than it.
The alliance had survived through thick and thin thereafter. But Biswas’s defection has brought to the fore questions so far overlooked during the smooth sailing of the two ideologically divergent outfits.
The question uppermost in the mind of the rank and file of the Left is whether it’s leaders should have opted for a CPI(M) nominee at Sagardighi instead of agreeing to the Congress choice on the rationale that it is their sphere of influence. Thinking aloud the men and women, CPI(M) activists all who have campaigned during their waking hours for Congress nominees are asking why should the fruit of their labour be frittered away.
They are questioning the impediment in fielding a Left candidate backed by Congress. At worst, he/she would have been defeated and if he/ she emerged victorious a desertion would have been most unlikely given the rigorous checks and balances of the outfit he/she belongs to.
Had he not switched sides, Biswas after his win in the by-election would have remained Congress legislator till the Assembly was dissolved in 2026 for the Assembly polls. After his victory in March and his defection in May, the CPI(M) leadership is hard put to reply to their cadres’ query about the reason to campaign in rain and shine for a candidate who will go away.
Biswas’s plea that he is changing sides as his constituency is being denied state government schemes’ benefit is not tenable. After all, ISF legislator from Bhangar Naushad Siddqui is also facing an unenvious position for a longer period.
Not denying the grouse of the grassroot activists’ grouse, a senior CPI(M) said that Murshidabad district CPI(M) leadership had earmarked a candidate for Sagardighi by-poll. But the party agreed to the Congress candidate finally to give a joint fight to the Trinamool Congress and the BJP.
The other query which has made an unwelcome appearance is the toil and trouble put in by Left activists during a Congress candidate’s campaign is not reciprocated. In so many words, the efforts of Congress activists in the campaign of a front candidate leaves much to be desired.
The emergence of the leader of the Opposition from Congress and it ending up with more seats in its kitty are pointers to it, it was opined. It remains a fact that after 34 years of uninterrupted governance ,the Left Front’s organisational strength far outstrips that of the Congress.
Compulsions of national politics having a bearing on CPI(M) leadership going by Congress’s decisions in the state. The Left knows only too well of its dependence on Congress organisation beyond West Bengal, come election season.
While senior leaders of CPI(M) and Congress have put up a brave face saying a stray incident will hardly dent the alliance, some front partners have expressed their unhappiness at the existing state of affairs. Incidentally, a political minnow, ISF legislator Naushad Siddiqui from Bhangar in South-24-Parganas is a breath of fresh air to Left and Congress.
For Siddiqui has been in the thick of political battle ever since his election in the summer of 2021 Assembly elections. The lone Opposition legislator in the state Assembly, he has been arrested in connection with a demonstration in Kolkata and spent weeks in judicial custody.
The incident had provided a platform for Congress and Left to close ranks and demand Siddiqui’s release. Matters had come to such a pass that even Assembly Speaker Biman Bandopadhyay, a lawyer by profession, had expressed surprise at the Bhangar MLA not getting bail.
Sandwitched between the resurgent Trinamool Congress campaign of Nabajoar led by Abhishek Banerjee and BJP’s door to door family relations programme, the Left and the Congress have no alternative but to stitch together to remain a relevant force in the Bengal politics. Panchayat elections in next few weeks will be a test whether this third force can improve its position for fighting 2024 Lok Sabha polls together. (IPA Service)