It’s do or die for both the Trinamool Congress as well as the Left parties in West Bengal when they go to polls in the next few months. Over the past two years, over 10 opposition leaders have joined the Trinamool Congress, mostly from the Congress but also several heavyweight CPI(M) leaders. The latest being Abdur Rezak Mollah, a former minister with the Left government, who formally switched over to the TMC in a rally held by incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday.
Senior leaders in the CPI(M) have been increasingly vocal about a need for an alliance with the Congress. Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya used his platform at a rally in Singur last month, where for the first time he openly invited Congress, or any other anti-TMC party, to join hands with the Left. He came under severe criticism from his own party members for his invitation.
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An embarrassed senior leadership later issued statements saying that the former Bengal CM was not inviting the Congress “but calling on all those who wanted to oust Mamata from Bengal”.
A month since the Singur rally, the tide to have an alliance with the Congress is turning in favour of such an alliance. In yesterday’s state secretariat meeting of the CPI(M), as many as 41 members of the 53 who spoke were in favour of joining hands with their erstwhile rivals (there were 73 members in all and only 11 opposed the move).
Opposing voices in the Left have said that a tie-up with the Congress will be a sell-out for the CPI(M) and a compromise on its principles. The two parties have been staunch political rivals in the past and while the Left may have backed the first term of the UPA at the Centre – a tie up between the two – if it does actually happen will be unprecedented in Bengal.
Just as the CPI(M)’s covert desire to join hands with the Congress has been far from unanimous, the Congress in Bengal has been split down the centre on this very issue. While a large section of the Congress, including state president Adhir Chowdhury, has been pushing to join hands with the Left, dissidents within the party feel that the Congress’ chances in Bengal would be better if they were to join forces with the ruling TMC.
A team of Congress leaders met Rahul Gandhi earlier this month regarding the matter. But despite only months remaining for the polls, no decision has yet been taken.
For the CPI(M), it is simply a matter of removing Mamata from power. The ground reality is that the tide, for the time being, is in favour of the ruling party. And it is unlikely that the Left will be able to oust the incumbent CM without outside support. For the Congress, which does not have a large enough base in the state any longer to come to power, the decision is simply one of which of the two rivals – CPI(M)
or TMC – will benefit individual legislators the most.