Friday 15 April 2016

Congress and CPM team up to beat TMC

The two arch rivals in politics for decades – the Congress and the Communists  – have finally reached a workable “understanding” in sharing seats in the West Bengal state assembly polls to put up a combined fight against the ruling Trinamool Congress
But for the moment, the two seem to have buried all their animosity as they say: “We are ready to do anything to oust this “despotic and autocratic” rule of the Trinamool Congress, and Mamata Banerjee.

Releasing the names of 116 of the 294 candidates for the upcoming Assembly polls in West Bengal, Left Front chairman Biman Bose said on Monday that they have only entered an “electoral understanding” with the Congress and there has been no alliance between them. “In an attempt to prevent division of votes, we had asked all Left-minded and democratic parties to come together. Because the Congress is no longer an ally of the TMC, we welcome them. But there shall be no alliance with them. Their symbol is theirs, ours is ours,” he said, after releasing the candidates names.

Lauding the ‘positive’ role of CPI(M) in forging an alliance with his party, Bengal Congress president Adhir Chowdhury on Saturday said more than 90 per cent Assembly seats in the state would have one-on-one fight with the Trinamool Congress. Congress leaders in the poll-bound West Bengal are mounting pressure on the party’s central leadership, including president Sonia Gandhi, to form an alliance with the Communist party CPI(M) to take on the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the upcoming Assembly elections.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) owes it very origin to antipathy towards the Congress party. Back in 1964, leaders such as JyotiBasu were anti-Congress before it was cool, splitting the Communist Party of India on the basis of its perceived closeness to Indira Gandhi (one of the snide names the CPI was called at the time was Communist Party of Indira). Mamata Banerjee might seem invincible after grabbing 34 out of 42 LokSabha Seats in the 2014 General Election but the ground reality actually isn’t that rosy. While she may hold 63% of the seats in the state Assembly and a whopping 81% of West Bengal’s LokSabha seats, this is more a function of the fact that the Trinamool’s opposition is divided and the vagaries of the first-past-the-post system, which is designed to heavily magnify vote-share leads in terms of seats.

Central West Bengal, which is where Malda is located, is an area in which the TMC has a limited presence. However, as ShuvojitBagchi points out, writing in the Hindu, communal turmoil like the episode witnessed in Malda recently is likely to boost both the TMC as well as the BJP in this region. The ensuing polarization will help the TMC mop up Muslim votes and the BJP attract Hindu voters. This should, of course, greatly worry the Congress, which has dominated central Bengal since 1947. Which is why the state Congress is so keen on an alliance with the CPI(M), which would ensure that its base remains secure.

Anurag Singh
( PG MEDIA 2015-2017)

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