Left, Congress take up joint movements in Bengal
Leaders of both the parties say they want to be seen as a single non-communal, democratic force.Updated: Jul 03, 2019 10:55 IST
The Congress and the Left have started joint campaigns on every issue in West Bengal, both on and off the streets, in a bid to emerge as a third alternative to the ruling Trinamool Congress and the key opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
Despite the absence of any formal understanding between the two parties, the leaders of both the Left and the Congress have got together on every possible platform in Bengal – the assembly, the streets as well as press conferences.
The effort to collaborate comes close on the heels of an unsuccessful attempt to reach an understanding before the April-May Lok Sabha elections in the state.
“It’s pointless to get together before the elections since it raises questions in the minds of the voters about the sincerity of both the 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,” Congress leader Abdul Mannan said.
Communist Party of India(Marxist) legislator and Left leader in the state assembly Sujan Chakraborty said, “We are together when it comes to taking up people’s issues and combating the TMC and the BJP.”
Both the Left and the Congress suffered in the Lok Sabha elections with the former managing to secure on only 7.46% of the total votes polled and no seats, while the Congress managed to win two seats though it got only 5.61% votes.
Over the past few days, the Congress and the Left acted as one.
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 men. The next day, the two visited Sandeshkhali in North 24-Parganas district, where three people died in a clash between the TMC and BJP supporters.
On June 22, state Congress president Somen Mitra and Left Front chairperson Biman Bose walked together in a ‘peace rally’ organised by the two camps at Bhatpara, where a series of political clashes between the supporters of TMC and BJP disrupted normal life.
Last week, the Left and the Congress jointly brought a motion against communalism in Bengal in the state assembly. While the TMC later offered to join the Left and the Congress in moving the motion together, Mannan and Chakraborty have said they would not accept the TMC’s proposition if the draft of the motion does not blame the ruling party for the rise of the BJP in Bengal.
The renewed attempt at organising a joint movement against the Trinamool Congress and the BJP comes at a time when by-election in three assembly seats may be announced any time.
Senior leaders of Congress’ state unit stated that any seat-sharing proposition can yield result only if it is based on the united mass movement against the TMC and BJP.
“Election-based understanding won’t work in Bengal anymore. The people have got in BJP a credible alternative of the TMC. We (Left and Congress) have to be on the streets together, fight for people’s issues together and develop ourselves as a credible alternative of 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 and with Adhir’s elevation in the party, it will hopefully move forward,” said Pradip Bhattacharya, Rajya Sabha MP and former president of West Bengal Pradesh Congress committee.
Incidentally, Chowdhury was one of the staunch supporters of the need for seat adjustment with the Left in Bengal for the Lok Sabha polls. In fact, though the talks with the Left failed, CPI (M) did not nominate any candidate against him in his constituency.
A central committee member of the CPI(M) 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.
Political analyst Maidul Islam said the two camps are left with 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, an assistant professor of political science at Kolkata’s Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, said.
The BJP won 18 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal - a nine-time rise over its 2014 tally of two. Its share of polled votes stood at 40.25%, a quantum leap from 17.02% recorded five years ago.
“The Left and the Congress have been reduced to irrelevance. It does not matter to us even if the Left, the Congress, and the TMC all come together to fight us,” said Manoj Tigga, the leader of BJP in the state assembly.