Congress-CPM tie-up again. But will it work in Bengal local polls?
The CPI(M)-Congress alliance in West Bengal, which failed to garner many votes in the 2016 assembly elections, is once again up for a test in the upcoming municipal elections as the two parties have decided to join hands once more.
Municipal elections will be held in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Mirik in the hills, Domkal in Murshidabad, Pujali in South 24 Parganas and Raigunj in North Dinajpur on 14 May.
The CPI(M) took the decision to work with the Congress once more after it was noted during a state-level party meeting that its organizational strength is at an all time low. The alliance, leaders believe, could help regain some seats.
A senior CPI(M) leader said that the seat sharing for all the municipalities is yet to be finalised, but at Raigunj, the CPI(M) will fight for 9 out 18 seats. The Congress will fight for the other 9 seats.
Battling the BJP and AITC
Ashok Bhattacharya, a CPI(M) leader from Darjeeling district, said, “With the rise of Hindutva forces, communalism and religious polarisation, the alliance between CPI(M) and Congress might be beneficial as both the parties are opposing the ruling AITC government for their secret understanding with the BJP.”
The alliance has two main issues at hand that need to be tackled: large scale defections of party workers to the ruling All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) and the rise of the BJP in West Bengal – the party just recently became the principal Opposition in the state.
On 18 April, Congress councilor Sandip Biswas and 10 other councilors of the Congress joined the AITC camp.
Deepa Dasmunsi, Congress leader and general secretary of Pradesh Congress Committee said, “AITC is trying to poach our leaders by threatening them and we have already convened a meeting at Raigunj to stem erosion in the party camp and party’s vote bank.”
The state leadership of the CPI(M) has also yet to communicate the existence of the alliance to the central leadership. This is a touchy topic, because after the alliance failed during the 2016 elections, a section of CPI(M) party’s hardliner members felt that the alliance was a wrong decision as it was a deviation from their tactical line.
During the election, the alliance failed miserably in the state with the Left Front bagging 33 out of 294 Assembly seats. The All India Trinamool Congress won 211 seats.
Despite that, some party members feel the alliance will benefit in the long term considering CPI(M)’s weak organisational strength in various districts.
On 23 April, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury is scheduled to hold meetings with the party workers at Kurseong in the hills.