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TMC Offers 2 Seats to Congress in Bengal? Why Grand Old Party is on Weak Footing

State Cong leaders have told high command that they will ally with TMC in 2024 only if partnership is "respectable".

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The Congress "won't beg for seats" from the Trinamool Congress (TMC), said Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Thursday, 4 January, as the two parties clashed over a seat-sharing deal in West Bengal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

"The TMC is not serious about strengthening or forging an alliance in the state. The TMC is busy pleasing and serving Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protect themselves from the clutches of the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and the ED (Enforcement Directorate)."
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury

Chowdhury's remarks came after Congress MP from Malda Dakshin, Abu Hashem Khan Choudhury, claimed that "a deal had been struck with the TMC on giving two seats to the Congress in the state", according to The Hindu.

Of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal, the seats the Congress MP was referring to were Malda Dakshin and Behrampore. However, the TMC is yet to confirm the distribution of seats.

Meanwhile, in response to Adhir Ranjan's remarks, the TMC's Sougata Roy told The Times of India,

"Badmouthing the TMC and our party supremo Mamata Banerjee, and alliance can't go hand in hand... The Congress high command must rein in Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury if they want an alliance in Bengal."

According to reports, state Congress leaders are vying for eight seats in the upcoming elections – three seats in Murshidabad, two from Malda, and three other seats, including Darjeeling, Purulia, and Raiganj.

Even as seat-sharing between the Congress and the other allies of the INDIA bloc remains undecided in most states, The Quint explains what ails the Grand Old Party particularly in West Bengal – and why is it on weak footing as far as the negotiations with the TMC go.

TMC Offers 2 Seats to Congress in Bengal? Why Grand Old Party is on Weak Footing

  1. 1. A Peek into History

    Post-Partition, the Congress was a formidable force in West Bengal. During its more than two-decade rule, the party gave West Bengal four chief ministers – Prafulla Chandra Ghosh (1947-48), Bidhan Chandra Roy (1948-62), Prafulla Chandra Sen (1962-1967), and Siddharta Shankar Ray (1972-77).

    However, a downward spiral of the party began around 1977 when the first non-Congress government was installed at the Centre after a popular upsurge led by socialist leader Jayprakash Narayan brought down the Indira Gandhi dispensation.

    The Congress lost its pre-eminent position on West Bengal's political stage after it was humbled in the 1977 elections (after Indira Gandhi withdrew Emergency). People became disenchanted with the party driven by dissension and squabbling.
    Manojit Mondal, political analyst and professor at Jadavpur University

    The party started ceding ground to the Communist Marxist Party of India (CPI-M), which then went on to rule the state for the next 34 years.

    However, it suffered its biggest blow in 1998 when Mamata Banerjee – one of its own members – left the fold and founded the TMC. Mamata had served as a Congress MP for two terms – from Jadavpur in 1984, and Calcutta South in 1991, during which she also briefly served as a minister.

    "In her (Mamata Banerjee), the Grand Old Party met its nemesis," Mondal told The Quint.

    Breaking the Left's 34-year-old ruling streak, the TMC has been in power in West Bengal since 2011.

    Expand
  2. 2. How the Numbers Stack Up 

    The Congress's best-ever tally in West Bengal in a Lok Sabha election since losing power in 1977 was in the 1984 elections. It won 16 seats with 48 percent votes, riding on a wave in its favour following Indira Gandhi's assassination.

    Its second-best performance was in 1996 when it won nine seats and secured 40 percent votes. However, with the formation of the TMC in 1998, a big chunk of the anti-Left votes was bagged by Mamata's party, which became the principal opposition.

    In the elections that followed in 2001, it could secure only roughly 13 percent votes.

    In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the party recovered a bit as it went on to win six seats with 14 percent vote share.

    "But the formation of the UPA-1 (United Progressive Alliance-1) government with the Left's support again hastened its decline, as the opposition space shrunk in the state," Mondal elaborated. 

    It was relegated to a distant fourth position with little over 9 percent vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

    "The Congress's inability to garner for itself a significant portion of the opposition's vote share was apparent in its performance in the 2018 panchayat polls, which saw a four-cornered contest with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as a force to reckon with. The ruling TMC swept the elections, but the BJP emerged as its main challenger, while the Congress and Left were relegated to the margins."
    Manojit Mondal

    In the 2019 elections, the TMC won 22 seats, the Congress won two (Malda and Murshidabad), and the BJP secured 18.

    Expand
  3. 3. Of Poaching Accusations, Exodus of Leaders, and More

    As per experts and party insiders, a slew of problems is ailing the party.

    "Yes, it is indeed a battle to prove our existence in Bengal. It is true that we have lost much of our strength in the last few years," Congress leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya told The Quint.

    Bhattacharya told The Quint that a sizeable section in the state Congress feels that tying up with the "TMC in the 2001 Assembly, 2009 Lok Sabha, and the 2011 Assembly elections (when the TMC ended the Left's 34-year-old stint) was a big mistake as it exposed its vulnerability and increased dependence on allies."

    "It was the high command's decision to sacrifice the interest of the party for forging an alliance with the TMC that led to such a pitiable situation in Congress."
    Pradip Bhattacharya

    Meanwhile, Mondal pointed out the frequent barbs over "poaching of MLAs" which could have contributed to its decline.

    "The Congress is dealing with a steady erosion in its vote bank, and the exodus of its leaders and workers to the TMC and a resurgent BJP. The party has battered and bruised by factionalism, and a seemingly unending quest for a credible and effective leadership, and organisational frailty," Mondal explained to The Quint.

    Mondal also added that there is a feeling in the state Congress that the party high command has "neglected" it for long.

    Illustrating the same, a senior state Congress leader on the condition of anonymity told The Quint, "Two weeks back, the party high command handed over charge of the West Bengal unit to Congress leader from Jammu & Kashmir Ghulam Ahmad Mir. For a crucial state like West Bengal, where the BJP is trying to desperately make inroads, and where the minority vote has shifted largely from the Congress to the TMC, a more prominent and decisive face would have been suitable."

    The decision subtly indicates how seriously the high command takes West Bengal, they added.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

A Peek into History

Post-Partition, the Congress was a formidable force in West Bengal. During its more than two-decade rule, the party gave West Bengal four chief ministers – Prafulla Chandra Ghosh (1947-48), Bidhan Chandra Roy (1948-62), Prafulla Chandra Sen (1962-1967), and Siddharta Shankar Ray (1972-77).

However, a downward spiral of the party began around 1977 when the first non-Congress government was installed at the Centre after a popular upsurge led by socialist leader Jayprakash Narayan brought down the Indira Gandhi dispensation.

The Congress lost its pre-eminent position on West Bengal's political stage after it was humbled in the 1977 elections (after Indira Gandhi withdrew Emergency). People became disenchanted with the party driven by dissension and squabbling.
Manojit Mondal, political analyst and professor at Jadavpur University

The party started ceding ground to the Communist Marxist Party of India (CPI-M), which then went on to rule the state for the next 34 years.

However, it suffered its biggest blow in 1998 when Mamata Banerjee – one of its own members – left the fold and founded the TMC. Mamata had served as a Congress MP for two terms – from Jadavpur in 1984, and Calcutta South in 1991, during which she also briefly served as a minister.

"In her (Mamata Banerjee), the Grand Old Party met its nemesis," Mondal told The Quint.

Breaking the Left's 34-year-old ruling streak, the TMC has been in power in West Bengal since 2011.

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How the Numbers Stack Up 

The Congress's best-ever tally in West Bengal in a Lok Sabha election since losing power in 1977 was in the 1984 elections. It won 16 seats with 48 percent votes, riding on a wave in its favour following Indira Gandhi's assassination.

Its second-best performance was in 1996 when it won nine seats and secured 40 percent votes. However, with the formation of the TMC in 1998, a big chunk of the anti-Left votes was bagged by Mamata's party, which became the principal opposition.

In the elections that followed in 2001, it could secure only roughly 13 percent votes.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the party recovered a bit as it went on to win six seats with 14 percent vote share.

"But the formation of the UPA-1 (United Progressive Alliance-1) government with the Left's support again hastened its decline, as the opposition space shrunk in the state," Mondal elaborated. 

It was relegated to a distant fourth position with little over 9 percent vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

"The Congress's inability to garner for itself a significant portion of the opposition's vote share was apparent in its performance in the 2018 panchayat polls, which saw a four-cornered contest with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as a force to reckon with. The ruling TMC swept the elections, but the BJP emerged as its main challenger, while the Congress and Left were relegated to the margins."
Manojit Mondal

In the 2019 elections, the TMC won 22 seats, the Congress won two (Malda and Murshidabad), and the BJP secured 18.

0

Of Poaching Accusations, Exodus of Leaders, and More

As per experts and party insiders, a slew of problems is ailing the party.

"Yes, it is indeed a battle to prove our existence in Bengal. It is true that we have lost much of our strength in the last few years," Congress leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya told The Quint.

Bhattacharya told The Quint that a sizeable section in the state Congress feels that tying up with the "TMC in the 2001 Assembly, 2009 Lok Sabha, and the 2011 Assembly elections (when the TMC ended the Left's 34-year-old stint) was a big mistake as it exposed its vulnerability and increased dependence on allies."

"It was the high command's decision to sacrifice the interest of the party for forging an alliance with the TMC that led to such a pitiable situation in Congress."
Pradip Bhattacharya

Meanwhile, Mondal pointed out the frequent barbs over "poaching of MLAs" which could have contributed to its decline.

"The Congress is dealing with a steady erosion in its vote bank, and the exodus of its leaders and workers to the TMC and a resurgent BJP. The party has battered and bruised by factionalism, and a seemingly unending quest for a credible and effective leadership, and organisational frailty," Mondal explained to The Quint.

Mondal also added that there is a feeling in the state Congress that the party high command has "neglected" it for long.

Illustrating the same, a senior state Congress leader on the condition of anonymity told The Quint, "Two weeks back, the party high command handed over charge of the West Bengal unit to Congress leader from Jammu & Kashmir Ghulam Ahmad Mir. For a crucial state like West Bengal, where the BJP is trying to desperately make inroads, and where the minority vote has shifted largely from the Congress to the TMC, a more prominent and decisive face would have been suitable."

The decision subtly indicates how seriously the high command takes West Bengal, they added.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Congress   Mamata Banerjee   West Bengal 

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