The Left-Congress Alliance in Bengal Demonstrably Confused Voters
(Photo: Hardeep Singh/ <b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Hardeep Singh/ The Quint)

The Left-Congress Alliance in Bengal Demonstrably Confused Voters

Conceived to work magic in the polls, the Left-Congress alliance has come a cropper in West Bengal. And, leaving the two to lick their wounds, Mamata Banerjee will once again waltz back to ‘Nabanna’, the seat of administration in the state, with a thumping majority tied to the hem of her ‘saree’.

Besieged by issues of corruption in the pre-poll stage, the TMC’s job was thought to have grown doubly difficult when the Left and Congress chose to ally or did it? The Left-Congress alliance’s dismal poll performance, however, tells a different story – the people rejected the alliance.

While the Left-Congress alliance did relatively better in the 76 seats of the seven North Bengal districts and Murshidabad, which are traditionally pro-Left or pro-Congress, the alliance put up a poor show in the South Bengal districts, which practically took them off the race.

Why Did the Left-Congress Pact Fail?

The factors that led to the alliance’s insipid show are multiple. Irresolute from the start, the alliance partners lost precious time temporising and by the time the alliance gained a semblance of momentum, the second phase of the polls were already through. The TMC had stolen quite a march by then.

Differences within the Left Front constituents over relinquishing seats to honour the proposed alliance sent the RSP and Forward Bloc in a sulk, so much so, that the two Left constituents chose to field their party candidates in several seats of North Bengal and Murshidabad despite the presence of alliance candidates, ruining the alliance spirit even before it took off. It took its toll.

Lack of sincerity among the alliance partners in collective campaign, absence of transfer of votes as is clearly manifested in the results, failure to articulate the multiple issues of corruption the Mamata Banerjee government was encumbered with are other crucial factors that went against the alliance’s poll prospect.

CPI-M leaders Satarup Ghosh and Ashok Bhattacharya participate in a Left-Congress alliance rally in Kolkata, on April 28, 2016. (Photo: Kuntal Chakrabarty/ IANS)
CPI-M leaders Satarup Ghosh and Ashok Bhattacharya participate in a Left-Congress alliance rally in Kolkata, on April 28, 2016. (Photo: Kuntal Chakrabarty/ IANS)

Conflicting Ideologies, Confused Voters

Organisational weakness is one issue the alliance partners failed to address in the past five years. While the Congress’ vote share is concentrated in three districts namely Uttar Dinajpur, Malda and Murshidabad, the Left clearly has lost a lot of organisational ground in the state. The Left seems to have ignored the point that when cadre-based organisations erode, they virtually cave in. History stands testimony to this.

The acceptability factor is another crucial angle that did not augur well for the Left-Congress alliance. Historically and principally opposed to each, the Left-Congress poll bonhomie seems to have confused supporters of either parties more than attract them. The confusion has reflected in the voting pattern.

All this has hung a question mark against the future of the alliance and a blame game cannot be discounted. In the postmortem the alliance partners would certainly now conduct, they will have the unenviable task of asking themselves - did the alliance help the Left and the Congress or, did it actually hurt? Should they continue with the alliance in view of the 2019 Parliamentary polls or go their own separate ways?


Why the Left-Congress Alliance Fizzled?

  • Confusion persisted over a long period regarding the alliance. By the time it was formalised, the second phase of elections were already through.
  • Seat adjustment strategy also backfired with Left’s junior partners, RSP and Forward Bloc acting as a spoilsport by fielding their own candidates.
  • Different initiatives by the Mamata-led government resulted in TMC winning 24 of the 54 seats in North Bengal, a traditional Left-Congress stronghold.
  • Left-Congress alliance also failed to project corruption as a major electoral issue.

Mamata Wave in Bengal

There was opposition and resistance on the alliance proposal from hardliners in both organisations, but citing the need to weed out Mamata Banerjee and by extension the TMC to “restore democracy in the state”, the moderates had won the debate on forging the alliance. The hawks in both organisations are by now readying themselves to extract their pound of flesh.

Conversely, the voters have clearly lapped up Mamata Banerjee’s policy of dole politics. From making grants to neighbourhood clubs to organising fairs, from distributing bi-cycles among school students to financially aiding the girl child, the TMC government remained in constant touch with the electorate and sold themselves well as benefactors in the run-up to the polls. The resultant factor is showing.

(The writer is a Siliguri-based journalist)

Also read:

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