As West Bengal Poll Advances, Left-Congress Alliance Sees Hope

The CPI(M)-Congress alliance could potentially jolt the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, reports Sudipta Chanda.

3 min read
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi being garlanded by CPI(M)-Congress joint candidates Anjan Bera (L) and Santosh Pathak (R)  during an election campaign rally in Howrah on Saturday. To Rahul’s left is West Bengal Congress chief and Lok Sabha MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. (Photo: PTI)

The West Bengal Assembly polls are halfway through amid sequential violence, the Election Commission’s red-eye notwithstanding. With the final three (the state went for the fourth round today) of the six-phase polls left, hostilities are feared to escalate. That is how the political parties would assume power – browbeating an emasculated electorate.

The outcome of the polls is foregone. Either the outgoing Trinamool Congress (TMC) or the Left Front-Congress new-found combine would come to power. The BJP, at best, is also in the run. Then what? That could be the crucial question in the post-poll scenario.

If the TMC regains power, a part of the question is put to rest. But what if the Left-Congress amalgam wrests authority? Will the combine function smoothly? Will it continue for a reasonable period of time or would it fall apart prematurely? The pitfalls are many but the leadership of the combine is optimistic.

‘New Dynamism’

“The alliance has injected new dynamism in the country’s political system. It should stand the test of time,” claims AICC member Omprakash Mishra. A professor of International Relations at the Jadavpur University, Mishra was one of the advocates of the Left-Congress alliance.

Assuring the Congress would join the government if the Left-Congress alliance gets the numbers, Mishra’s considered opinion is: “The Left’s ideological commitment was never suspect. Collectively, we would restore democracy in the state and uphold secular values in the country. The alliance should therefore work fabulously in West Bengal and nationally too.”

TMC activists during an election campaign of West Bengal Chief Minister and party supremo Mamata Banerjee in  Bhawanipore constituency, Kolkata, on Sunday. (Photo: PTI)
TMC activists during an election campaign of West Bengal Chief Minister and party supremo Mamata Banerjee in Bhawanipore constituency, Kolkata, on Sunday. (Photo: PTI)

Siliguri Model Developer

Now meet Asok Bhattacharya, the man who fashioned the ‘Siliguri Model’, pathfinder to the current statewide Left-Congress alliance. Four-time cabinet minister in the former Left Front government, Bhattacharya had convinced the CPI(M)-led Left to support the Congress in assuming control of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) and keep the TMC at bay way back in 2010. The ‘Siliguri Model’ was underway.

He then successively supported and gathered backing from the Congress to entrench the Left in the SMC and the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad in 2015, despite Mamata Banerjee’s ardent desire to win the corporation. Bhattacharya has been a constant thorn in the TMC flesh and trailblazer to the current Left-Congress alliance.

He is but cautious on the subject of a protracted Left-Congress alliance. Attributing the “extraordinary situation heaped upon the state by the TMC” as reason for the alliance, Bhattacharya, however, refrains from political soothsaying.

Alliance Future Uncertain

“Politically and ideologically the Left and the Congress are apart. The TMC is the clear and present danger and needs to be weeded out, which is why the poll alliance. What will happen in the future depends on how the central leadership views the situation,” he says.

Not all see much purchase in the Left-Congress alliance or are hopeful of its future. Swimming against the groundswell demand for the alliance, outgoing Alipurduar Congress MLA Deba Prasad Roy chose to skip the polls on “moral grounds,” despite being offered the ticket by his party, the only man to do so in the state.

It is a matter of principle. Those who suffered at the hands of the Left are of my generation or thereabouts. Most of them have joined the TMC and so selling the Left-Congress alliance to the new generation was not difficult. But I suspect its credibility and future, a matter I had personally raised before party chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Outgoing Alipurduar Congress MLA Deba Prasad Roy.

Towards 2019 Lok Sabha Polls

In his pursuit to oppose the alliance, Roy, a Rajya Sabha member from 1984 to 1990, went to the extent of holding a convention in Siliguri in March to build resistance against the coalition. His theory, however, did not find many takers.

The Left-Congress alliance is contesting the 2016 West Bengal polls with an eye on the 2019 general elections. Their joint slogan – “remove TMC to save Bengal, remove BJP to save India” – is the giveaway. What happens thereafter is anybody’s guess.

(The writer is a Siliguri-based journalist)

Also read:

In Bengal’s Bahubali Land, Narada’s Main Man Clamps Down

Through the Lens: Election Diaries from Villages in Bengal

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