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Both Left Front and Congress leaders claim door for understanding still open

Struggling to retain its fast eroding political ground in what was once its seemingly impregnable fortress in West Bengal, the Left Front released a list of 25 candidates for the Lok Sabha elections in the state, leaving the doors open for a possible understanding with the Congress.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Mar 16, 2019 13:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Congress party flag.
Congress party flag.(PTI file photo)
         

Struggling to retain its fast eroding political ground in what was once its seemingly impregnable fortress in West Bengal, the Left Front (LF) released a list of 25 candidates for the Lok Sabha elections in the state, leaving the doors open for a possible understanding with the Congress.

There are 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal. The list has four women and 13 male faces who will contest the Lok Sabha elections for the first time.

Of the 25 candidates on the list, 15 are from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), three each from the Communist Party of India, the Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party.

One candidate is a retired doctor, who was earlier associated with the CPI(M) but recently joined the doctor cell of the Congress. His symbol will be decided later, said a CPI(M) leader.

Indicating that the space for understanding with the Congress is still open, LF chairman Biman Bose issued a statement that said, “We have finalised the candidates for 25 seats. In the remaining 17, Congress will contest some, while in the others the Left Front will field its candidates.”

“The LF candidates in the remaining seats will be announced in two-three days. It might be that long,” he said.

“The doors of an understanding are still open. The Left Front has done its job. I am doing mine. If the door closes, it will,” said West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee president Somen Mitra.

Choosing his words carefully, Mitra mentioned, “Left Front chairman Biman Bose called me before the meeting with the front partners at 3:30 pm. I told him he can go ahead with his list of candidates and we have no problem with it.”

The Pradesh Congress Committee will meet on Saturday. “Their list will be finalised in a day or two,” said Mitra.

Leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the largest constituent of the LF, said on conditions of anonymity, “The possibility of an understanding with the Congress is very much open.”

The Left Front statement also said that though they have nominated a Forward Bloc candidate for Purulia and a CPI candidate for Basirhat, Congress might field its candidate if it thinks they have a chance of winning, indicating a friendly fight in these two constituencies with the Congress.

Currently, there are only two Left MPs from Bengal - MD Salim from Raiganj and Badaruddoza Khan from Murshidabad. Both have been nominated this time.

The Left leaders had already announced that they won’t nominate any candidate for the four constituencies with sitting Congress MPs. These are Baharampur, Jangipur, Malda North and Malda South.

In recent years, both the Left Front and the Congress have been reduced to virtual insignificance in the game of numbers with continuously declining vote share, driving the two camps - bitter enemies during the past few decades - to even strike an understanding in the 2016 assembly polls to survive the onslaught of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).

Since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has steadily progressed in the state and has emerged as the main challenger to the TMC.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the Left Front got 43.3 per cent of the votes while the Congress won 13.45 per cent. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the shares dipped to 29.9 per cent and 9.58 per cent respectively.

In the 2016 assembly elections, the Left Front had got around 25.69 per cent votes while the Congress won 12.25 per cent. In terms of seats, the Congress got 44 seats while the LF won 33 seats, the worst show of the Left block since Independence.

“In the 2016 assembly elections, the LF and Congress had a pact. The results were disastrous. Even if they tie up with the BJP, Trinamool Congress will win all the 42 seats in the state,” said minister and senior TMC leader Jyoti Priya Mallick.

“What sort of an alliance is this, or is it a childish game of alliances? On the one hand, the Congress high command is sending representatives to the Kolkata rally organised by the TMC on January 19, and on the other, the Left and the Congress are trying to work out a pact to take on the TMC,” remarked BJP Bengal unit secretary Sayantan Basu.

“The success of the Left-Congress electoral understanding will depend on how much the grassroots-level Left workers vote for the Congress and vice versa,” said Amal Mukhopadhayay, former professor of political science in Presidency College.

The Trinamool Congress has announced its list of 42 candidates on March 12, while the BJP is yet to declare its list.

First Published: Mar 16, 2019 13:06 IST

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