West Bengal CPI(M) secretary Surya Kanta Mishra has described Mamata Banerjee's TMC as the "Trojan horse of BJP" in the opposition camp and urged the people to vote for the strongest Congress or Left Front candidates to defeat the TMC and the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections in Bengal.
He conceded that it would have been better if the seat sharing deal between the CPI(M) and the Congress in the state was clinched as it would have ensured maximum pooling of anti-BJP and anti-TMC votes.
The CPI-M veteran said the last five years of the BJP government has been a "complete disaster" for the country and the people. "The very future of the secular democratic republic as enshrined in our Constitution is at stake under the Modi government".
Mishra, also CPI-M Politburo member, told PTI in an interview, "We wanted to ensure maximum pooling of anti-BJP and anti-TMC votes in the state. That is why we had tried for seat sharing and a no mutual contest in six Lok Sabha seats which the Congress and the CPI(M) had won last time. But it did not happen.
"I don't want to enter into a blame game with the Congress. It is for people to decide why it (seat sharing) did not happen," he said.
His comments come in the backdrop of the falling through of the proposed seat sharing deal between the Congress and the CPI(M)-led Left Front after the former accused the LF major of not following the 'alliance dharma' and being more keen on a short term seat sharing in the state.
The CPI(M) had, on the other hand, accused the Congress of not being serious about the deal.
"The purpose is to defeat the BJP and the TMC and maximize anti-BJP and anti-TMC votes. Let us (CPI-M and Congress) not find fault with each other. The call is very clear - if you see that a Congress candidate can defeat the TMC and the BJP nominees in your constituency, then you vote for the Congress.
But if you feel that the Left can defeat the TMC and the BJP candidates (in a certain seat), then vote for the Left," he said. Both the parties are now contesting in 40 seats each. The state has a total 42 seats, elections to which will be held in seven phases.
The CPI(M) and the Congress had entered into a seat sharing deal in 2016 assembly poll against the TMC but failed to dislodge it from power. Asked about the reason behind the failure of the Congress-CPI(M) seat sharing deal this time, Mishra declined to blame anyone and said his party does not consider Congress to be its "political enemy" as it is neither in power in the state nor at the Centre.
Stating that the CPI(M) was never in favour of an alliance with the Congress and was only interested in having a seat sharing deal, the Left party leader said it is for the people to decide and judge who is stronger and who is in a better position to defeat the TMC and the BJP in respective seats.
Asked whether the CPI(M) will support a Congress-led alliance at the Centre to keep the BJP at bay as it did in 2004, Mishra said "We want an alternative secular government at the Centre. If the alternative secular government has to depend on our support to stop the BJP from coming to power, then we will of course have to support it".
He brushed aside the TMC's claims on efforts to cobble up an anti-BJP opposition alliance and said it can never be trusted in the fight against the saffron party, given its political track record. "The so called efforts by Mamata Banerjee for opposition unity is nothing but a ploy to help the BJP.
She and her party is the Trojan horse of BJP in the opposition camp. She always keeps her options open. She did the same thing in 2014 and this time too, she is doing the same thing," he said.
"Both the TMC and the BJP have an understanding in at least 10-12 seats in Bengal. In those seats, the TMC will help the BJP," Mishra alleged. Continuing his criticism of Banerjee, the Left party leader said it was she who had broken away from the Congress to forge an alliance with the BJP and has never worked for any secular alliance.
"These (efforts by TMC) are all attempts to fool the masses. Whatever will happen (in the alliance) will happen after the polls". Banerjee, a prime mover behind the efforts to stitch together an anti-BJP alliance, had organised a rally of opposition parties in the city on January 19 this year.
Mishra said there can never be a common minimum programme ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. It can only be drawn up after the results are announced and all the parties in the government sit together to discuss various policies.
Recalling the drawing up of the common minmum programme in 2004 after the UPA-1 government was formed with support of the Left parties, he said it was due to them that the 100 days work scheme was implemented and privatisation of banks stopped.
Mishra denied that the BJP is eating into the opposition space in Bengal by outsmarting the Left parties and said that the LF is still ahead of the TMC and the BJP in terms of mass mobilization.
The Left, he claimed, would improve its tally in Bengal this time.
"How can you say we are falling behind? The elections that have taken place in Bengal can never be a benchmark as they were neither free nor fair. In terms of mobilizing people, we are still ahead of the TMC and the BJP and the Left Front's February Brigade grounds rally (in Kolkata) is an example of it," the CPI-M leader said.
"The people are with us and they understand what is right and wrong. We are confident that we will improve our tally in Bengal this time," he added.
Claiming that the fight between the BJP and the TMC is "just to fool the masses", Mishra said had the saffron party been serious it would not have taken five years for CBI to question former Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar in the chit fund scam.
Had the BJP been serious then, there would have been some progress in Narada case which is lying with the Lok Sabha ethics committee, he said. The CPI(M) presently has only two Lok Sabha seats in Bengal, its lowest ever tally in he state in the last four decades.On the rectification drive in the party to weed out "rotten and inactive" members, he said it is a continuous process but unlike the right wing parties it is not used to settle scores with leaders within the party.