The Alliance That Isn’t: CPI(M)-Congress Come to Seat Sharing Deal
Some within the CPI(M) are reluctant to have a full blown alliance with the Congress in West Bengal.
It looks like an alliance, it talks like an alliance and now, the CPI(M) and Congress are even acting like an alliance for the upcoming Assembly elections in West Bengal. But officially, this is still a ‘tactical arrangement’.
The CPI(M)-led Left Front has announced candidates for 116 seats out of 294 on Monday, while on Tuesday, the Congress made public a list of 96 seats it plans to contest. The Left Front declared candidates for only 4 seats in Malda and Murshidabad, both traditional Congress strongholds.
The Congress is playing ball too and decided not to contest any of the 116 Left seats.
So what makes this seat sharing arrangement different from a pre-poll alliance? Well, candidates and leaders from either side will not be campaigning for each other and they have no common minimum program or manifesto.
A Keen Congress ‘Untouchable’ for the Left?
The Congress party, or, at least its Bengal unit, has openly declared its desire for a out-and-out pre-poll alliance with the Left.
If we [CPI(M) and Congress] would have come together properly and conducted joint campaigns, the result would have been much better. But some of them [Front members] have problems with us, though we [Congress] do not believe in political untouchability.Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, President, West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee
The Left clearly realises that it needs an undivided opposition if it has to make gains in a state that it ruled for nearly four decades. But even now, it is not formalising an alliance which would lead to organised, well-planned campaigns.
Old Grudges and an Eye on Kerala?
Kerala, another state where a CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has a chance at power (some would say a far better one than in Bengal), is also going to polls next month. Here, the LDF’s rival is the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and an alliance in Bengal with their bitter rivals in Kerala could hurt the CPI(M). The Kerala unit, plagued by infighting for some time now, can ill-afford another term out of power.
The hiccups in a CPI(M)-Congress alliance, however, go beyond just electoral politics. The party has, for the better part of its history, been bitterly opposed to Congress and its so-called ‘neoliberal’ economic policies. In fact, the various shades of the Indian Communist movement can be graded on the basis of their distance from electoral politics and the Congress party.
Within the CPI(M)’s highest echelons, there are many who would rather not ally with the Congress, while there are others who see it as the only way to regain relevance in Bengal.
The almost-alliance that now seems to be coming into force may be a reflection of that tension.
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