Facing not only an uncertain future but a survival crisis in West Bengal, the CPM central leadership Thursday gave its state unit the green signal to “cooperate” with the Congress for the coming assembly elections. But the party also said that there will be no alliance or front with the grand old party in keeping with the demands of the CPM’s Kerala leadership.
Besides the Kerala unit, a majority of Politburo members, led by Prakash Karat, and that of the Central Committee had insisted on keeping a distance from the Congress. But the Bengal unit will have the freedom to enter into a limited, local seat-specific adjustment with the Congress, as West Bengal CPM sought, without wrecking the party line.
The political-tactical line adopted by the party at its Vishakhapatnam conclave last year forbids any alliance with the Congress. However, with the Bengal unit insisting that an understanding with the Congress was essential for the party’s survival and to oust the Trinamool Congress from power, the central leadership tried to work around the document.
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“The central committee worked out, in accordance with the political-tactical line adopted at the 21st Congress, the electoral tactics for the forthcoming elections to the assemblies…In West Bengal, the main task is to restore democracy and foil aggressive efforts by communal forces to polarise people by ousting the Trinamool Congress government,” a party statement said. “The CPI(M) will seek cooperation of all democratic forces in the state to strengthen people’s unity in West Bengal to defeat the Trinamool Congress, isolate the BJP and their machinations.”
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the West Bengal unit will now come up with “concrete proposals”, and the Politburo will take the “final decision” on them. “What shape it will take, how it will take…that time will tell,” he said about the “cooperation”. The state unit, he added, will work out the mechanics of cooperation.
West Bengal leaders contend that popular sentiment in the state is to oust the Mamata Banerjee government, and is thus in favour of a Left Front-Congress alliance. But as of now, Yechury said, “no discussions have begun with anyone outside the Left Front in Bengal”.
Senior Politburo member S R Pillai said everything will be “within the framework” of the political-tactical line, which does not allow any kind of alliance with the Congress. Asked about the Kerala unit’s apprehension that such alliance in Bengal will have implications in the southern state, Pillai said, “We discussed that issue, and we came to this conclusion on the basis of that discussion.”
Sources said cooperation with the Congress could involve fielding common Independent candidates and transfer of votes to the alliance partner’s candidate in each constituency. Yechury, however, said “don’t fast forward the discussions”, arguing that the party will take it forward “step by step”.
Specifying that there is an atmosphere of terror in Bengal, he said no party can survive in such an atmosphere, accepting that the electoral tactic is hinged not just to political but physical survival.
“It will be like an Agatha Christie novel. There will be many twists and turns, and many new characters will emerge in the coming days,” a senior Politburo member said, summing up the decision.