It was business as usual at CPM headquarters off Alimuddin Street, with a number of leaders arriving Wednesday morning for a meeting of the party secretariat. Cups of hot tea were frequently carried in for leaders including CM aspirant Surjya Kanta Mishra and MP Mohd Salim. “I will head back to Delhi after the results,” he said.
It wasn’t just counting they discussed. “This isn’t an election-driven party,” said former MP Sujan Chakraborty, now Jadavpur candidate. “We work the same way whether there is an election or not, whether results are awaited or not. There are always issues to discuss through the year.”
He rushed to his constituency as soon as the meeting ended, to meet the family of a youth who had died. He then went to his constituency office, where voters called on him to discuss their problems.
CPM leaders brushed off exit poll predictions of their defeat. Whatever the result, however, they said they are encouraged by their jot (understanding) with the Congress. “The understanding will continue. It is not tied to the elections alone,” Salim said.
Salim said the two ideologically different parties will work out a common agenda. Even a defeat “will simply mean that we have failed to meet our agenda and will now have to work harder at it. Together. There is 2019 after this and then the next assembly election. It doesn’t end here”.
For the Congress, former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar echoed that the two parties should look at 2019 next. “In my view, both parties will secure more seats than they would have done fighting individually,” he told The Indian Express. Asked they should have tied up a little earlier, he said, “I don’t like to cry over spilt milk. At the moment it is only an electoral understanding and I think it should continue to transform into an alliance because the primary task is to hold the BJP back in the 2019 general election.”
State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury predicted a bright future for the jot and dismissed the exit polls. “Elections were held under an environment of terror. Do you think people who had voted against the state would admit it on record?”
Congress candidate Arunava Ghosh was optimistic: “Even if I assume the TMC comes back to power, the alliance will form a very strong opposition.”
A CPM leader agreed: “If the jot gets 120 seats, it will be a strong opposition, something Mamata Banerjee has never had to deal with. She does not know how to run a government that has an opposition to contend with.” But if the tally were to drop below 90 or so, CPM insiders fear the understanding could disintegrate.