Some CPI(M) workers had supported the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls fearing violence by the TMC cadre, state unit secretariat member, Amal Haldar said .(PTI File Photo)
Some CPI(M) workers had supported the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls fearing violence by the TMC cadre, state unit secretariat member, Amal Haldar said .(PTI File Photo)

CPI(M) reopens 80% of party offices in Bengal since BJP jolted TMC in Lok Sabha polls

The BJP had won 18 of West Bengal’s 42 seats in Lok Sabha polls. The TMC’s tally came down from 34 in 2014 to 22 in 2019 even though its vote share increased by 3.5 percentage points.
By Snigdhendu Bhattacharya | Hindustan Times, Kolkata
PUBLISHED ON FEB 06, 2020 10:05 AM IST

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has reclaimed more than 80% of its offices, which were occupied by the workers of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) during the first seven years of Mamata Banerjee’s rule, since the Lok Sabha elections last year, its leaders said.

Political experts said the development was interesting as the Left cadres had apparently voted for the candidates of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the April-May Lok Sabha polls in a bid to defeat the ruling TMC.

“Allowing the Left to reopen their offices is an attempt on the part of the TMC to allow the Left parties to retain their vote-base in the state and create a division in anti-TMC votes,” said Amal Mukhopadhyay, a former principal of Presidency College.

“The 2019 Lok Sabha polls literally turned into a bi-polar election, resulting in major gains for the BIP,” Mukhopadhyay said.

The BJP had won 18 of the state’s 42 seats. The TMC’s tally came down from 34 in 2014 to 22 in 2019 even though its vote share increased by 3.5 percentage points. The BJP’s vote share increased by about 23 percentage points, which was equal to the decline of Left parties vote from about 30% in 2014 to 7.5% in 2019.

The Left parties claimed the political turmoil over National Register of Citizens (NRC), Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Population Register (NPR) has revitalised their organisational strength.

The CPI(M) state unit secretariat member, Amal Haldar, said some workers had supported the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls fearing violence by the TMC cadre.

“They are now coming back and reopening the party offices as they see the protests over NPR, NRC and CAA as a catalyst to regain mass base,” he said, admitting that there was no opposition by the local TMC leaders.

Haldar said more than 500 major and small offices across the state had been closed down, vandalised or occupied by the TMC in the past seven years.

“We can safely say that more than 80% of the offices have been reopened. In Burdwan district, of the 12 major offices shut down by the TMC, only two are closed at present,” Haldar said.

HT spoke to secretaries of district units of the CPI(M) and all Left leaders claimed that between 80% to 95% of their offices have been reopened since the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

“About 150 party offices were closed down by TMC between 2011 and 2018. We have managed to reopen 90% of them,” Ananta Roy, the CPI(M)’s Cooch Behar district unit secretary, said.

Ajit Pati, secretary of Bankura district unit, said: “In our district, more than a dozen of main offices were closed down. Barring a few, all other has been reopened”.

In Monidaha, the local committee office in the former Maoist hotbed of Lalgarh in Jhargram district, which was closed within four days of Mamata Banerjee winning elections in 2011, is set to be re-opened.

In December, the TMC-run local gram panchayat cleaned the premises off weeds.

“The office is all set to reopen next month,” said CPI(M)’s Jhargram district leader Dahareshwar Sen.

When asked what enabled the party to reopen its office, Sen said, “A section of our workers had switched over to the BJP to escape police harassments. Now that the BJP workers are facing no less harassment from the TMC and police, and in some cases, BJP workers are under more pressure, some of the workers came back to us.”

Both the BJP and the TMC accused each other of helping the Left to reopen their offices.

The BJP’s state unit general secretary Sayantan Basu said the TMC helped CPI(M) to reopen these offices to split votes against it.

“We have nothing to do with it,” Basu said.

“The CPI(M) and the BJP are hand-in-glove. The CPI(M) closed down their offices on their own because there were no workers. Now, the BJP is helping the CPI(M) to reopen the offices,” senior TMC leader and state food minister Jyoti Priya Mallick said.

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