A trend that began with the panchayat polls in May 2008,and persisted through the later Nandigram and Sujapur assembly bypolls,was further extended by Sundays bypoll result from Bishnupur (West): that the CPM is in decline in rural West Bengal. Moreover,since the Nandigram bypoll,it seems a united opposition will increasingly rob the Left Front of the sleep of the complacent. Soon after the Trinamools victory in the Bishnupur bypoll,the Congress and Mamata Banerjee formally announced that they would jointly contest all 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The announcement ended weeks of speculation,and made the Bengal picture clearer for the general elections. Pranab Mukherjees camaraderie with Banerjee late on Sunday night,coupled with the Bishnupur defeat,has duly concerned Alimuddin Street,where state CPM leaders admitted that the loss indicated how the party has failed to connect with the voters they had lost during the panchayat polls last year. The CPM certainly appears to be on the back foot in rural Bengal although Banerjees visions of an endgame for the CPM may be premature.
To be effective alliances must address both electoral arithmetic and political coherence. Part,but not all,of the reason why the Trinamool won in Bishnupur was the Congresss withdrawal of its candidate to avoid a split of the anti-Left vote. That,again,is the logic according to which the two parties seem to be working for the general elections. After all,External Affairs Minister Mukherjee,who is also the Bengal Congress chief,has made no secret of his distaste for the kind of politics that has held the states development to ransom symbolised by Singur and Nandigram. In fact,his concurrence with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on that issue had almost jeopardised an alliance with the Trinamool.
Now,as Bhattacharjee warns his party to get its act together,the anti-Left alliances task has only just
begun. It would need to work out the kind of politics it wants to project. It would be disastrous for Bengal if the perceived discontent among rural voters is exploited to reverse the industrialisation project. Further,both alliance partners would know that aggregate discontent doesnt automatically translate into aggregate votes. Meanwhile,the Trinamool-Congress tie-up puts in place another piece in the
national electoral puzzle. Its to be seen now how this piece impacts the Lok Sabha polls and how its factored into post-poll arrangements.