March 23, 2021 4:40:40 am
Projecting itself as the only challenger that can stop the BJP juggernaut in the Assembly polls, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is eyeing the Left vote bank to bolster its chances of retaining power in West Bengal.
While releasing the party manifesto last week, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said: “Those who honestly want to defeat the BJP, vote for us. Do not waste your vote by casting it in favour of the CPM.”
Earlier, she had criticised the Left Front for helping the BJP and praised CPI-ML (Liberation) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya for his remarks that he would “campaign to defeat the BJP”.
This comes at a time when the Left Front’s political capital has been plummeting since the 2011 Assembly polls. In the 2016 Assembly polls, the Left Front got 29 per cent of the popular vote and 40 per cent if its partners’ share was considered. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the Left Front’s vote pie shrank to 7 per cent, hinting that its traditional votes had shifted to the BJP. If the vote share of its partners was taken into account, the figure was 12 per cent.
In another worry for the CPI (M)-led front, many Left organisations have been trending #NoVoteForBJP without specifying who to choose. CPI (M) leaders have conceded that the ‘No Vote for BJP’ call will inexorably benefit the TMC.
A senior CPI (M) leader says these Left organisations rallied behind Banerjee in 2011 because they were “fooled” by land movements in Singur and Nandigram. “ But this time, people are aware of such tactics,” he says.
A senior TMC leader predicts that the alliance of the Congress, Left Front and Indian Secular Front (ISF) will split anti-BJP votes. “The United Front may not be in a position to win seats but may be proved as ‘vote katwa’ to spoil our fight against the BJP. On the other hand, with its alliance with the ISF, the CPM may further poach our Muslim votes or its Hindu votes may shift to the BJP. Both possibilities will harm us. So, we are saying: ‘Do not waste your vote. If you want to stop the BJP, support us.’ We are the only force who can stop the BJP.” The newly formed ISF, led by Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif, holds sway in at least four districts with considerable minority votes. According to the 2011 census, Muslims constitute 27 per cent of the state population.
Politburo member Mohammed Salim finds no substance in TMC assertion: “Nobody is giving importance to her (Mamata Banerjee) statement because she is changing her stance every day. We are not bothered about that. We are telling people that both the parties are not addressing their problems. But we will do so.”
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