THE CONGRESS high command on Thursday gave the green signal to its West Bengal unit to enter into a seat-sharing pact with the Left parties for the forthcoming Assembly elections to take on the ruling Trinamool Congress and an aggressive BJP. While a section of Congress leaders believe a Congress-Left alliance could end up helping the BJP, the party’s state unit was vehemently opposed to any pact with the TMC and had been insisting on a tie-up with the Left.
West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told The Indian Express that the BJP and the TMC have the same “political DNA” and asserted that the Congress and the Left parties “occupy the secular space” in Bengal and still enjoyed the support of a large section of the population who believe in secularism and liberal democracy. He said it is the media which is projecting the Assembly elections as a fight between the TMC and the BJP.
“The impression (of a straight fight between the TMC and the BJP) has been gaining because of media hype. Because the media is trying to project that only two forces are there. But that is far from the reality and far from the truth. In West Bengal, the Left and the Congress… they occupy the secular space and still enjoy the support of a large section of the population who believe in secularism and in liberal democracy. So certainly we have our own constituents that will be reflected in the coming elections,” he said.
— Adhir Chowdhury (@adhirrcinc) December 24, 2020
On possible division of anti-BJP votes, Chowdhury said, “We have to fight against the BJP and [Chief Minister] Mamata Banerjee both because we have been subjected to persecution by the ruling dispensation in West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee is a regional poacher while the BJP is a national poacher.
Both are well adept in poaching operations in the opposition camps. To that extent, they are very much similar in their approaches,” he said.
He said it was not the responsibility of the Congress party to keep the anti-BJP votes together.
“On the one hand, we are subjected to atrocities and persecution by Mamata Banerjee… on the other hand, on the alibi of the BJP… [we have been asked] to ally with the TMC. This cannot be done… because we have been left between the devil and deep sea. We have to carve out our own space because the space has been snatched upon by the Mamata Banerjee government. And now she is facing the music. The way Mamata poached our people and dismantled our organisation… the same ploy is being employed by the BJP. They are identical in their politics of destruction. Both are the same in their attitude. Their political DNA is quite identical,” he said.
Battle for survival
For both the Congress as well as Left parties, the upcoming assembly elections in West Bengal is a battle for survival. The high-octane campaign by the ruling TMC and the BJP saw the Left getting squeezed out in the Lok Sabha elections and the Congress plunging to two seats. The parties had fought the elections separately. Having decided on the alliance, the two hope to arrest the declining trend and pose a challenge to both the TMC and BJP.
Asked about Banerjee’s move to rally opposition leaders like Sharad Pawar and M K Stalin in her fight against the BJP on the issue of federalism, he said, “Federalism in India is certainly in peril. That is why our Congress chief ministers also extended support to Mamata Banerjee. As far as federalism is concerned, all the Opposition-ruled states are in peril. That is why all have to be united on that account. That is a different kettle of fish.”
“Pawarji is a senior leader. He thought it prudent that on the issue of federalism all the states ruled by the Opposition should be united. That is why he has extended his opinion…. It is a common issue. There is nothing extraordinary in this approach.”
Asked how many seats will the Congress contest, Chowdhury said, “That stage has not come. During the course of discussions, factoring in other considerations like where we are strong and all… we will zero in on the number and choice of seats. Everything has been left to the state leadership… nothing has been imposed on us.”
“First of all we have to discuss and decide amongst ourselves that this many seats have to be demanded. Thereafter, we will propose to the Left parties,” he said.