Is an alliance with Congress the CPI(M)’s only hope for revival?
West Bengal’s Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders remain divided on the issue of aligning with the Congress, although Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the CPI(M), has already put forward a proposal to align with the Congress for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to be held in 2019.
The pro-Congress argument
A section of Bengal’s CPI(M) leadership feel that, considering the BJP’s rise in Bengal, there is a need to ally with the Congress to counter the BJP as early as the upcoming panchayat election as well. At the Central Committee meeting, which concluded last Sunday, Yechury proposed the idea for aligning with the Congress for the upcoming elections. In the vote that followed, 55 members voted against Yechury’s proposal, while 31 members voted in favour of it.
Speaking in favour of the alliance, a senior CPI(M) leader said, “We feel that an alliance with the Congress is needed to counter the BJP in Bengal. It was seen that CPI(M) alone has been unable to increase its vote share. In 2016 Assembly elections, while Trinamool Congress had registered 53.7 percent vote share Left Front and Congress, which has fought the election after forging an electoral tie up, had registered 34.2 percent vote. BJP had got 8.75 percent vote share.”
Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, who was a senior CPI(M) leader until his expulsion in 2008, said, “I feel that it’s a set back for the CPI(M) not to go for an understanding with the Congress in the upcoming elections. If there is alliance with the Congress, there is a chance for the ailing CPI(M) to revive."
On the other hand, a section of leaders who are in favour of Prakash Karat’s view, which is not to align with Congress, feel that Congress and BJP are not much different in terms of economic policies, and that the Congress has in the past taken a “soft stand” on communal matters too.
Sujan Chakraborty, a CPI(M) leader, stated, “We feel that there is no question of aligning with any party for the upcoming election. The CPI(M) alone can mobilise all secular forces. At the recent Sabang by-election too, CPI(M) came to the second position while Congress snagged the fourth position. While TMC candidate Gita Rani Bhunia received 64,000 votes, the Left Front candidate received 41,987 votes and secured the second position. BJP stood third, with around 37,000 votes.”