February 15: Senior leaders from the Congress such as Somen Mitra, Abdul Mannan and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) such as Md Salim hold joint rallies in Kolkata and several districts to protest against the sedition controversy involving Jawaharlal Nehru University students.
February 18: Congress state president Adhir Chowdhury calls for a bandh in Murshidabad’s Kandi to protest against the abduction of a Left-supported councilor in the municipality. Congress and CPI(M) hit the streets together.
February 25: Wall graffiti surfaces in Birbhum with the Congress’ hand symbol superimposed on the star and sickle of the CPI(M).
The top leadership of the Congress and the CPI(M) may be mum about a possible tie-up but in the bylanes of rural West Bengal, in the villages and blocks, the alliance is very much in place.
Frenzied behind-the scenes seat-sharing negotiations are taking place and a final announcement is expected next Tuesday. The Congress has demanded around 100 of the 294 seats.
“This is the call of the people. Our workers and that of CPI(M) have sealed the deal. They are standing with each other at the grass root level,” said Om Prakash Mishra, senior Congress leader from Bengal.
“The pleasure and pain of seat sharing has to be proportionately distributed. What remains is just a formality of announcing the arrangement,” added Mishra.
The two once-arch rivals plan to come together to stop the TMC that is looking for a second term and decimate the Opposition. Both the Congress and the CPI(M) allege Mamata Banerjee’s party shields goons who run riot during polls, inflict large-scale violence and intimidate opposition candidates.
A survey has predicted a close fight, giving 156 seats to the Trinamool, 114 seats to the Left and 13 to the Congress.
Workers in villages and semi-urban areas have held unofficial booth-level meetings to chalk out strategies to thwart the TMC.
The TMC has hit back, pasting posters with details of atrocities during CPI(M)’s 34-year-long rule across Kolkata and many districts.