Left Front taking Congress help for rejuvenation in Bengal
By Milinda Ghosh Roy
Kolkata, July 25 (IANS) With the recent Lok Sabha elections making the political scenario of West Bengal largely bipolar between Trinamool Congress and the BJP, the Left Front, once a formidable force which ruled the state for more than three decades continuously, is attempting a rejuvenation, in association with the Congress.
The Left Front, which lost power to Trinamool Congress in 2011 after a marathon run, has now been reduced to a tertiary player in the politics of the state, where Mamata Banerjee-led party remains a dominant force while the BJP is aggressively trying to improve its footprint.
In the recent Lok Sabha polls, the Left drew a blank in the state where 42 seats were at stake, and cornered a vote share of just 7 per cent.
In the given situation, the Left is working with the Congress to boost its prospects ahead of the next Assembly polls due two years from now. The Congress, which is also desperately aiming to improve its tally, is also playing ball.
The erstwhile arch-rivals hope their joint and coordinated efforts will culminate in an electoral understanding before the Assembly polls here.
CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra has called for building a comprehensive platform of anti-BJP and anti-Trinamool forces in the state.
The CPI(M)-led Left Front had entered into a seat-sharing deal with the Congress in the last state Assembly elections in 2016 but failed to stop the juggernaut of the ruling Trinamool Congress which captured 211 out of 294 assembly seats and got 44.91 per cent vote.
In 2016, the Congress contested at around one-third of 294 seats, leaving the rest to Left major CPI-M and other Left constituents. The Left parties together won 32 seats while Congress got 44 seats. The CPI-M got a vote share of around 20 percent, while the Congress bagged an almost 13 per cent vote share.
The saffron party, almost doubled its vote share as compared to the 2011 Assembly polls, continued to be a minor player with just over 10 per cent votes. The stitching together of the Congress-Left Front alliance also impacted the BJP, as it remained way short of the 17 per cent vote share it grabbed in the 2014 general elections.
However, the scenario changed massively in this year's Lok Sabha elections.
The collapse of seat-adjustment talks between the Left Front and Congress ahead of the Parliamentary polls gave the BJP an unprecedented advantage as it managed to amass a large chunk of the anti-incumbency votes in the state.
The Congress managed to hold on to two Lok Sabha seats out of four it had won in 2011 and got a vote share of around five per cent.
The BJP's voting percentage shot up to an unprecedented 40, indicating a massive swing of the LF-Congress votes to the saffron outfit.
To take on Trinamool Congress and the BJP, the Left Front and the Congress have started working jointly with an aim of making a dent.
Senior leaders of the two parties, including Left Front Chairman Biman Bose and Congress Bengal President Somen Mitra, jointly participated in a peace rally in North 24 Parganas district's Bhatpara in the aftermath of clashes between workers of Trinamool and BJP.
The two parties have also come out with identical statements on a number of issues, like the primary teachers' agitation and the raging cut money protests against the Trinamool Congress leaders across the state.
"We want to continue joint movements to stop the communal polarisation of Trinamool and BJP. There will be more such joint movements with the Left. We hope this joint movement for the greater good of the people of Bengal will propel the two parties towards an electoral understanding," Mitra said.
According to Mitra, Left and Congress leaders plan to make a joint visit to the trouble-hit Bhatpara again on July 26 to inspect the condition of common people as well as talk to the local administration regarding the ongoing unrest.