The Congress has announced that it will contest the forthcoming West Bengal elections in an alliance with the once-mighty Left Front.
A section of the Congress has reportedly expressed concerns over the alliance, now approved by the party’s high command, fearing that it might end up helping the BJP. But the West Bengal unit was in favour of a tie-up with the Left to take on the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and an aggressive BJP.West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury made the official announcement
of Congress-Left tie-up on Twitter on December 24.
The announcement comes with a political contradiction that the Congress and the Left are principal rivals in Kerala, which also goes to polls along with West Bengal in April-May 2021.
Any decision taken for West Bengal, analysts said, will have a bearing on Kerala, especially for the Left. In West Bengal, this might as well be used as a tool to attack the alliance by the BJP and the TMC, they said.
Sources said that decision of an alliance with the Congress was opposed by many Left leaders in Kerala too.
Earlier this month, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) swept the Kerala local body polls held earlier this month ahead of the state assembly elections next year. The Congress-led UDF, the main Opposition in Kerala, was able to register gains only in the municipalities and suffered drubbing in elections to all other bodies.
Chowdhury told the Indian Express newspaper that the BJP and the TMC had the same “political DNA” while the Congress and the Left parties occupied the “secular space” in West Bengal.
“There is a large section of population in West Bengal that believes in secularism and liberal democracy. The impression that the election would be a straight fight between the TMC and the BJP is being created by the media,” he said.
While Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, it seems, will be fighting an aggressive bid by the BJP to wrest power in the state for the first time, the next year’s elections are being seen as a battle for survival for the Congress and the Left parties.
In 2016, the two parties fought together and bagged 76 seats in the 294-member assembly. The CPI (M)-led Left Front, however, walked out of the alliance ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Amid the high-decibel campaign by the ruling TMC and the Congress in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the CPIM (M) drew a blank and the Congress got just two seats in the general elections.
BJP's efforts on the ground led to the party winning 18 of Bengal’s 42 parliamentary seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, up from just two in 2014. BJP’s vote share in the state soared to 40.6 percent in the 2019 general election from about 17 percent in 2014. This brought the saffron party’s share close to TMC’s 43.6 percent.
A major chunk of Left voters had reportedly shifted to the BJP camp in 2019 polls. Now, the Congress and the Left parties hope to regain some lost ground in the assembly polls by stitching the alliance. Sources said that the alliance hopes for a hung House, through a proper seat-distribution and a hyper-local campaign, denying BJP and TMC a majority in the state.
Read: West Bengal assembly polls 2021| Focus on booths to wooing women voters, BJP's election strategy in 5 points
"Congress will fight with all its might to protect t the culture and heritage of Bengal, which is under threat from the divisive policies of BJP and political violence of TMC," West Bengal incharge of the Congress Jitin Prasada said last week.
The TMC won 2016 assembly elections by bagging 211 seats, the Congress and Left alliance got 76, the BJP won three seats and four went to others.
In the 2011 Assembly polls, the TMC had won 184 seats. It fought elections in an alliance with Congress and SUCI(C), which won 42 seats and 1 seat respectively, taking the tally to 227. The Left front was reduced to only 62 seats while BJP drew a blank in 2011.