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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

As TMC bleeds in Bengal, CPI(M) reopens 70 offices in the state

Despit TMC leaders joining BJP, the CPI(M) eyed lost ground and has recaptured around 70 of its offices across West Bengal.

india Updated: May 30, 2019 12:57 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee
Tanmay Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, Kolkata

Even as Trinamool Congress leaders made a beeline to join the BJP, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) eyed lost ground and has recaptured around 70 of its offices across West Bengal since the announcement of the Lok Sabha poll results earlier this month.

This comes as the two leading parties remained engaged in clashes and exchange of rhetoric in the state.

“The CPI(M) has around 1,000 party offices in Bengal. If you add the frontal organisations, the number will be around 3,000. Many of these were shut down during the Trinamool Congress regime,” a CPI(M) state committee member said on the condition of anonymity.

“However, more than 70 CPI(M) offices have been reopened. Most of these are in north Bengal and the western districts of Bankura and Purulia,” the member cited above said.

Thirty-nine of the 40 Left candidates, most of them from the CPI(M), lost their deposits. With no seat and around 7.5% of the votes, the Left recorded it worst show in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Incidentally, the Bharatiya Janata Party won seven Lok Sabha seats out of eight in north Bengal and gained substantially in the western districts.

The CPI(M) denied reports that it was assisted by the BJP in claiming back the offices.

“Contrary to what has been reported by a section of media, the BJP did not help us reoccupy our offices. Our men are taking over on their own strength, no matter how small the number may be at this time. We are not a party to the conflict between TMC and BJP,” said CPI(M) state secretariat member Rabin Deb.

“Democracy in Bengal was destroyed by chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her trusted lieutenant Mukul Roy, who now leads the BJP’s election strategy in the state,” Deb added.

However, an analysis of the poll results made it apparent that on many seats grassroots-level Left workers and supporters voted for the BJP in large numbers, ensuring a rise in the vote share of the saffron party. The silent strategy to make the BJP stronger in West Bengal seems to have paid dividend for the CPI(M).

“After the CPI(M) came to power in Bengal in 1977, some Congress offices were shut down, or taken over by Left cadres. But the CPI(M) never throttled the opposition the way the TMC did,” said columnist and political commentator Suvashsis Maitra.

“During the Left regime, the Congress held on to several Lok Sabha, assembly, civic body and panchayat seats. The CPI(M) is recapturing its party offices because a void has been created,” Maitra added.

During its campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, the CPI(M) had announced that the BJP should be defeated to save India and that the TMC should be thwarted to protect West Bengal.

However, during the seven-phase polls, the CPI(M) leaders at the grassroots tacitly encouraged party workers and supporters to vote for the BJP so that the TMC no more remains the controlling force in the state.

“No matter how many offices it reoccupies, the CPI(M) is unlikely to gain in the 2021 assembly election because the voting pattern in the Lok Sabha polls makes it apparent that the concept of captive voters has become redundant in Bengal,” said Maitra.

“People in the state have started following the people of Kerala and Uttar Pradesh who don’t vote for one party consistently.”

First Published: May 30, 2019 12:56 IST

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