Efforts at an understanding between the Left Front and the Congress, old foes in West Bengal, have raised many questions from within the CPM and without. A clue to the possible answer lies in the membership records of the CPM’s frontal organisations.
West Bengal has been the state where membership has declined most sharply since 2010. Membership of the Kisan Front decreased 47 per cent from 2010 to 2014, that of the Women’s Front decreased 15 per cent and of the Youth Front 30 per cent. In comparison, these three key CPM organisations saw a surge in membership in three other states where the party has had a traditional presence — Kerala, Tripura and Tamil Nadu — the only exception being the Tamil Nadu Youth Front.
Bengal’s Kisan Front lost 72,000 members from 2010 to 2014, the singular reason for the All India Kisan Front falling 40 per cent from 2.25 crore to 1.60 crore. The Left Front’s cadre base was instrumental to its three-decade, unchallenged dominance in Bengal.
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On record, the Left has stressed the “state’s need to drive Mamata out of power”. On the ground, the depletion continues. Sitting MLA Tajmul Hussain of the Forward Bloc joined the TMC in December and MLA Udayan Guha did so in October. “It can’t be denied that our presence in North Bengal is much weaker after these defects. The Congress obviously wants to press home their advantage,” said a senior CPM leader.
At the CPM plenum in December, party general secretary Sitaram Yechury had hinted at the need for an alliance with the Congress. On Sunday, Left Front chairman Biman Bose admitted some “confusion” remains and hoped things would “be sorted out” before the polls. CPM state secretary Suryakanta Mishra too admitted there are “problems”. “We have already completed the seat adjustment process in 90 per cent of the seats,” he said. “We can’t let the Opposition votes get divided.”