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Left, Congress join hands to fight saffron party’s rise in Bengal

The parties have yet to strike any formal deal – such an attempt failed ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections – but their leaders have been making it a point over the past couple of weeks to be seen together and to speak in one voice across multiple platforms.

india Updated: Jul 08, 2019 08:31 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Left,Congress,Bengal
The Congress and the Left parties suffered huge setbacks in the April-May Lok Sabha elections, with the former managing to win only two seats and the latter drawing a blank.(HT Photo)

Stunned by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s emergence as the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s principal rival in West Bengal, the Congress and the Left parties have begun teaming up -- in the Assembly, on the streets and at press conferences -- in an effort to emerge as a credible third alternative in the state.

The parties have yet to strike any formal deal – such an attempt failed ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections – but their leaders have been making it a point over the past couple of weeks to be seen together and to speak in one voice across multiple platforms.

“It’s pointless to get together before the elections since it raises questions in the minds of voters about the sincerity of both parties. We have to be seen as a single non-communal, democratic force. Whatever the allegation against the Left, they cannot be accused of being communal,” Abdul Mannan, Congress leader of the Opposition in the assembly, said on Monday.

“We are together when it comes to taking up people’s issues and combating the TMC and the BJP,” said Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sujan Chakraborty.

The Congress and the Left parties suffered huge setbacks in the April-May Lok Sabha elections, with the former managing to win only two seats and the latter drawing a blank. The BJPwon 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats, and restricting Mamata Banerjee’s TMC to 22 against 34 in 2014.

Over the past few days, Congress and Left leaders have been seen together at various events. On June 18, Mannan and Chakraborty went to Mathurapur in South 24-Parganas district to meet the family of a CPI(M) worker who was killed allegedly by TMC-backed thugs. On June 22, state Congress president Somen Mitra and Left Front chairman Biman Bose walked together in a “peace rally” at Bhatpara, where a series of clashes between TMC and BJP disrupted normal life.

Last week, the Left and the Congress jointly brought a motion in the assembly against communalism in Bengal. The renewed attempt at organising a joint movement against the Trinamool and the BJP comes at a time when by-elections to three assembly seats may be announced any time. The seats are Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur, whose Congress MLA Pramatha Nath Roy died; Kharagpur n West Midnapore whose BJP MLA Dilip Ghosh became a LS MP; and Karimpur in Nadia, whose TMC MLA Mahua Moitra was also elected to the Lok Sabha.

Senior leaders of the Bengal Congress said any seat-sharing proposition could yield results only if it was based on a united mass movement against the TMC and BJP. “Election-based understanding won’t work in Bengal any more. The people have got in the BJP a credible alternative to the TMC. We (Left and Congress) have to be on the streets together a credible alternative to the TMC,” said Berhampore MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha.

“We all realise the need for a tie-up...,” said Pradip Bhattacharya, Rajya Sabha MP and former president of the Bengal Pradesh Congress committee.

A CPI(M) central committee member who did not want to be identified said both parties had realised from the outcome of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections that sticking together was of utmost importance in the fight against the TMC and BJP ahead of the 2021assembly elections.

According to Maidul Islam, a political analyst and assistant professor of political science at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, the two camps have no other alternative. “It is only by moving together that the parties may still have some relevance in Bengal politics. If they act separately, neither party has any future. Their vote share would further decline if they move separately,” Islam said.

Manoj Tigga, the leader of the BJP in the Assembly, said, “The Left and the Congress have been reduced to irrelevance. It does not matter to us even if the Left, Congress, and Trinamool all come together to fight us.”

First Published: Jul 07, 2019 21:36 IST