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East versus South: CPI(M) split wide open over alliance with Congress

Rajat Roy | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:39 IST

The alliance

  • CPI(M)\'s West Bengal state committee is meeting on 12-13 Feb to decide on alliance with Congress
  • But this will be opposed by leaders from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh in central committee
  • Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat will be attending the state committee meeting

More in the story

  • What are the obstacles?
  • Why is the West Bengal CPI(M) desperate for a tie-up?
  • What\'s the party line?

The prospect of aligning with the Congress in West Bengal seems to have divided the CPI(M). While the West Bengal state committee is said to be in favour of a tie-up with the Congress, it is likely to be opposed by the "southern lobby" when the matter comes up before the central committee.

State committee meeting

Amidst this debate, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and his predecessor Prakash Karat have decided to attend the crucial West Bengal state committee meeting on 12 and 13 February. The alliance with the Congress is certain to come up in the meeting. Normally, one observer from the central committee is present at state committee meetings. Two or more members attend the meeting only when the party is confronted with crucial political issues.

Also read - Mahagathbandhan in West Bengal? Congress and Left inch closer to a deal

Once the state committee gives its recommendations, the central committee will meet in Delhi to take a final decision on the matter.

"Before we take on the TMC in the upcoming election (by aligning with the Congress), we have to convince our party leaders. They 'southern lobby' (members from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh) will oppose this tooth and nail," said a senior central committee member from West Bengal.

What's the party line?

A few days back, Karat said that the central committee will take a decision keeping in mind the party line.

In the past, the CPI(M) has taken the line that it is open to cooperating with democratic forces, but it didn't specifically mention the Congress.

CPI(M) leaders in West Bengal are banking on another line adopted by the party in the past - that gives respective state committees enough freedom to evolve their tactical line during elections.

The 'southern lobby' says it will oppose any attempt towards by the CPI(M) to ally with Congress

Another central committee member from West Bengal pointed out that when a proposal to make Jyoti Basu the Prime Minister was defeated by the central committee, the Bengal state committee was divided on that issue. A majority of the state committee members were against the proposal. This time around, there is almost complete unanimity in the state committee.

Kerala versus West Bengal

The southern lobby in the party is also preparing its resistance. Though they are citing the ''No to Congress" line adopted in the last Party Congress, their main concern is that the alliance will have an adverse impact in the Kerala. The southern state is going to polls at the same time as West Bengal and the Left is locked in a direct contest with the Congress-led UDF there.

CPI(M) politburo member SR Pillai has already held a series of meetings with the Kerala state leaders in Thiruvananthapuram. Apparently, they have resolved to oppose any attempt to deviate from the party line.

Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat will be attending the crucial state committee meeting on 12-13 Feb

Karat is also said to be opposed to the alliance. So the anti-alliance members are said to be in a majority in the central committee. It won't be easy for the West Bengal comrades to get their way.

But questioning the wisdom of the "party line" a central committee member from West Bengal says, "We must not forget that by pulling out of UPA-1 because of the 'party line' we created space for a TMC-Congress alliance, which eventually led to our defeat".

Also read - Lose-lose situation: why Cong must avoid tie-up with Left in Bengal

Congress plays coy

The Congress and the CPI(M) are faced with a peculiar political problem. Both strongly desire an alliance but neither wants to be the first to reach out, as a rejection would lead to a loss of face.

According to state Congress leaders like Abdul Mannan, who recently met Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leadership will act only after knowing the CPI(M) central committee's position.

State Congress leaders, including the PCC president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, have kept up pressure on the high command by saying that workers on the ground want an alliance with the Left.

Meanwhile, CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra has started addressing rallies across West Bengal, in which he is openly arguing in favour of an alliance with the Congress.

Mishra says that even if the leaders of both the sides are waiting, people have already cemented the alliance at the grassroot level.

Edited by Aditya Menon

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First published: 12 February 2016, 1:47 IST
Rajat Roy

Journalist based out of Kolkata.