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Sunday, April 18, 2021

At grand joint rally, a glimpse of Congress-Siddiqui seat tussle

Chhattisgarh CM Baghel accused the BJP and TMC of trying to divide people. “The country has to be saved from one, and Bengal has to be rescued from the other,” he said.

Written by Atri Mitra | Kolkata |
Updated: March 1, 2021 7:36:42 am
Leaders of the Left Front, Congress and Indian Secular Front at the rally in Kolkata on Sunday. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

On a day the Congress, Left Front and Furfura cleric Abbas Siddiqui-led Indian Secular Front (ISF) kicked off their campaign for the West Bengal Assembly elections with a mammoth joint rally at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground, tension over seat sharing was visible between Congress and ISF leaders who are still engaged in talks.

The Sanjukta Morcha or United Front rally was attended by Left leaders Sitaram Yechury, Suryakanta Mishra, Biman Bose, D Raja and Manoj Bhattacharya; Congress leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel; and ISF founder Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui and his brother Naushad Siddiqui.

Siddiqui, whose entry briefly disrupted the speech of Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, announced from the stage that he would not field candidates against the AIMIM and pledged to give his “blood” for the United Front.

“The Left has given us seats as per our demand… In the coming days, people will overthrow BJP and its B-team Mamata. Wherever the Left Front will field its candidates, we will give our blood, if necessary. If this (seat-sharing) agreement had been arrived at a week earlier, I would have gathered twice as many people because the people of Bengal are angry with the Mamata government.”

Siddiqui had earlier said that the Left Front had agreed to part with 30 seats for his party while seat-sharing talks with the Congress were still underway.

At the rally at Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

Meanwhile, senior leaders of the three parties lashed out at the TMC and BJP, accusing them of a “communal agenda”.

“Even though both (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and (Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee have come to power by democratic means, they are now out to destroy democracy and establish an autocratic state. We shall restore democracy after coming to power. We have to fight unitedly against the TMC and BJP. I want to say those who are spreading misinformation, change your mind. We have to stop both parties,” said Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, adding “the massive gathering proves that the upcoming elections will not be a two-cornered contest”.

He said the BJP and the ruling TMC desire that apart from these two parties, there should not exist any other political force in the state. “In future, there will not be any BJP or TMC, only the grand alliance will remain,” added Chowdhury, the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha.

Chhattisgarh CM Baghel accused the BJP and TMC of trying to divide people. “The country has to be saved from one, and Bengal has to be rescued from the other,” he said.

“We had fought earlier against the Whites and now we have to fight against the thieves,” he said, remembering Bengal’s contribution to the freedom struggle.

CPM general secretary Yechury attacked Modi for his “anti-farmer” policies and expressed confidence that the alliance can put up a brave fight just like farmers at the Delhi border. “The farmers at the Singhu border in Delhi are fighting against the (Narendra) Modi government’s anti-people policies. If farmers who provide us with food can put up such a gallant fight, we too can do it here… This grand alliance of the Left and the secular forces will fight to defeat the corrupt TMC government and the BJP… will fight for a better Bengal,” Yechury said

Taking exception to Modi’s “andolanjeevi” jibe, CPI general secretary D Raja said, “Our country and its Constitution should be saved from Modi. He called us ‘andolanjeevi’. Yes, I am. I am fighting to save my life and my country. The TMC and BJP are the same. We have to defeat them at any cost. Save Bengal, save country. I am appealing to all to support the Left-Cong-ISF alliance in the election.”

Former West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, however, could not make it to the rally because of his health, according to Left leaders.

Criticising the “communal agenda” of the TMC and the BJP, CPM secretary Suryakanta Mishra stressed the need for an alternative and said the Left-Congress grand alliance would fight to provide employment and usher in industrial development in the state.

Mishra said that West Bengal needed a government that would not be a “copycat” of the ones run by the TMC and the BJP. “The TMC and the BJP are two sides of the same coin. Their agenda is to divide people on communal lines… We have seen how TMC leaders are joining the BJP lock, stock and barrel,” he said. “We need a government which can fill up all the vacancies in state government jobs and semi-government sectors within a year. Neither the TMC nor the BJP can do it.”

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