The BJP took a dig at the new centre saying that first the CPI (M) leaders should get clearance from the government.(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
The BJP took a dig at the new centre saying that first the CPI (M) leaders should get clearance from the government.(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

Covid centre built by Congress, CPI (M) in Bengal; BJP has a question for TMC

Political experts see this as an initiative by the Congress and the CPI (M) to take their bonhomie a notch higher in a bid to emerge as a third alternative to the ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP in the 2021 elections.
By Joydeep Thakur | Hindustan Times, Kolkata
UPDATED ON AUG 19, 2020 02:58 PM IST

The Congress and the CPI (M) units in Bengal have christened portions of a Covid centre jointly built by them in Kolkata after veteran leaders from both the parties in a sign of growing closeness between the two in the build-up to the state polls next year.

Political experts see this as an initiative by the two parties to take their bonhomie a notch higher in a bid to emerge as a third alternative to the ruling Trinamool Congress and the key opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2021 elections.

The Covid centre, in the Dum Dum area, has been developed by the two parties and the project was overseen by the local CPI (M) MLA Tanmoy Bhattacharya. The wards will be inaugurated on Wednesday afternoon.

While the treatment unit (a liaison cell to help Covid patients get proper treatment and support their families) and the safe home have been named after Shyamal Chakraborty and Sankar Sen, former veterans of the CPI (M) who died recently, the oxygen supply unit has been named after Somen Mitra, veteran Congress leader who passed away on July 30.

“The CPI (M) has always shared a cordial relation with the Congress in Dum Dum. This initiative would further boost the friendship,” said Bhattacharya.

The BJP took a dig at the new centre saying that first the CPI (M) leaders should get clearance from the government.

“They are naming a child who is yet to be born. Will the government give clearance to such centres? The health minister should answer this first,” said Rahul Sinha, national secretary of BJP.

The Trinamool too panned it as a “publicity stunt”.

“It would have been better had they named the three sections after three stalwarts of three parties – the CPI (M), the Congress and the BJP - because they are all the same. They have done nothing for the people in the past 34 years and now doing some publicity stunts fully aware that such centres mean nothing without government clearance,” said Chandrima Bhattacharjee, minister and senior TMC leader.

Mitra, during his tenure as Bengal Congress president, remained a staunch proponent of a Left-Congress tie-up, both while organising a joint movement on the streets and also in the elections.

Since going solo and the disastrous results that followed in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the CPI (M) and the Congress are gearing up in the state to put up a united fight in the state polls up ahead, which will likely see a high-octane battle between the TMC and the BJP.

The CPI (M) and the Congress’ top leaders in the Assembly - Sujan Chakraborty and Abdul Mannan, respectively - have been frequently seen together over the past few months. A few months ago, the Congress supported the Left in the Rajya Sabha elections to get the CPI (M)’s Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya elected.

Political analysts see in the CPI (M)’s overture to the Congress, the CPI (M) Bengal chapter’s keenness in contesting the elections together, even though the Marxist party’s central leadership has repeatedly blocked any formal alliance in Bengal because they fight the Congress in other states, especially Kerala.

The two parties, which were once arch-rivals in the state and elsewhere too, are now seeking each other out. This bonhomie began in 2016 when the vote share of both parties started dwindling.

While the CPI (M)’s vote share took a nosedive from 30% during the 2011 assembly elections when the TMC ended the 34-year-rule of the Left rule in the state to around 6.3% in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls; the Congress’ vote share too has plummeted and has come down to 5.6% in 2019 from 9% in 2011.

A senior CPI (M) leader who did not want to be identified said that both parties have realised from the outcome of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections that sticking together is of utmost importance to save the party organisations from the TMC and BJP.

“Former West Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra and CPI (M) politburo member Biman Bose had decided that alliance between the two parties would not be just for the sake of elections but to address the grievances of people of Bengal. This initiative would definitely boost the relation,” said Amitabha Chakraborty, a senior Congress leader.

But over the past few months the relation between the two parties have soared to new highs with the Left Front leaders going to Bidhan Bhavan, the headquarters of the state Congress committee, to offer tributes to the former West Bengal chief minister and legendary doctor Bidhan Chandra Roy on his birth anniversary. Somen Mitra played a crucial role in forging an electoral understanding of left parties and the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Also Congress MLA Asit Mitra attended Shyamal Chakraborty’s remembrance ceremony at the CPI (M) state office.

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