The Communist Party of India (Marxist) opened its gates on Thursday for an unprecedented pact with the Congress —albeit in an informal way—for the upcoming assembly elections in West Bengal slated in April.
This would be the first time when the two parties, arch rivals for decades, are set to join hands for an election. They came closest in 2004 when the Left supported the Congress-led UPA 1 government from outside but parted bitterly three years later.
After pressure from the party’s Bengal unit for a tie up, the CPI(M) central committee authorised it to scout for possible “cooperation from all democratic forces in the state” to take on the Trinamool Congress.
“The committee will explore possibilities for a broader unity in Bengal against the Trinamool and the BJP. It may include fielding joint candidates or backing independents,” party general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.
“In West Bengal, the main task is to restore democracy and foil the efforts by communal forces to polarise the people by ousting the present Trinamool government. The CPI(M) will seek the cooperation of all democratic forces to strengthen the people’s unity in West Bengal to defeat the Trinamool, isolate the BJP and their machinations,” read the central committee’s communiqué.
Trinamool’s Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandopadhyay mocked at the possible alliance: “This is the same CPI(M) that had compared late Indira Gandhi to a witch during emergency and dubbed late Rajiv Gandhi as a thief on the Bofors issue. On the National Herald issue, they didn’t support Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. But now the CPI(M) is sending signals to the Congress.”
Top leaders of West Bengal, including secretary Suryakanta Mishra, former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and politburo member Md Selim had urged the central leaders to be flexible while deciding the electoral strategy for West Bengal where the Left is facing a crisis. The politburo, where the state leaders are in minority, has been asked to vet the state’s proposals. But sources said it may not risk shooting down the proposals for adjustments on different seats.
Taking different approaches for Kerala and Bengal, the party categorically gave a clarion call to out the Congress in Kerala but refused to mention the rival’s name in Bengal. Sources pointed out that this was perhaps the first time when a state unit’s demands prevailed upon the central leadership in the CPI(M).