Friday 8 April 2016

CPI(M)-CONGRESS: The new alliance in Bengal

As the 1st phase of voting takes place on 4th April, 2016 for West Bengal Assembly elections all the contesting political parties are in their final mode of campaigning. The All India Trinamool Congress which came to power in 2011 ending a 34-year Left rule in West Bengal is leaving no stone unturned in their campaigning to retain power. The ruling party which won 184 seats in the last assembly vote is hoping to increase their tally this time.

 This time around the Congress-CPM alliance will be the primary challenge to TMC in Bengal.  Although the current ruling party appears confident in their campaigns the big question that is rising within the political circles is that how many seats can the opposition wrest away from the ruling party? A survey conducted by a private news channel has predicted that there is a big chance of TMC coming back to power; however the road to victory will not be as smooth as the last time and margin between the opposition parties will narrow down.

Until a few months ago, the West Bengal elections appeared a foregone conclusion in favour of Mamata Banerjee, but it has got a new lease of life with the tactical electoral alliance between the Left Front and the Congress. This is not to imply that the so-called democratic alliance will be an easy and natural process. There is a lot of historical and ideological baggage that needs to be put aside. The CPI (M), which was formed on the question of the Left's attitude towards the national bourgeoisie (Congress in the 1960s), evolved through anti-Congress movements.

The central contradictions of Indian politics may have changed for the party with the ascendency of the right-wing BJP, but anti-Congress sentiments remains strong especially among people who experienced repression under the Congress regime. Conversely, the Congress in West Bengal for long considered the Left its principal opponent. Many of its leaders faced bitterness and suppression during the 34 years of Left rule.

Left and Congress have had to overcome historical bitterness to form the alliance in West Bengal. This alliance in West Bengal has materialized and appears to pose a strong, united opposition to the TMC.  According to Left front and Congress party leaders, the alliance is ‘”an alliance of the people”. The space for the opposition in West Bengal has decreased alarmingly under the TMC's rule. Civil society organizations and Opposition parties of all hues have been complaining of excesses by the ruling party and the complete subservience of the state machinery to the dictates of local TMC representatives.

When the space for opposition parties and especially their existence is under threat, such an alliance is more automatic than dramatic. And here a prominent political commentator remarked in a televised show about this alliance is- the single most important factor that has facilitated this alliance is the high handedness of the TMC and disregard for democratic principles, rule of law and opposition space.

                                                                                                                                       Rupa Biswas
                                                                                                                           (PG MEDIA 2015-2017)

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