As the political situation is tightening in West Bengal, the Congress High Command, under interim President Sonia Gandhi, has authorised an alliance with CPM for the upcoming Assembly elections in the state. The West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury announced the matter on Twitter on Thursday.
Earlier in October, the CPM Politburo had decided on an electoral understanding with the party, and they had worked together with Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar against the Janata Dal (United)-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance. However, their situation in West Bengal is more complicated than it was in Bihar. In the latter, they came together under the banner of RJD and had enough momentum of their own. While the left parties fared better in the Bihar assembly elections, Congress’ loss in many locations might have been the end of the alliance’s hopes.
Talking about similarities, both parties have a waning presence in West Bengal, with the left all but written off. After BJP’s 18-seat victory in the Lok Sabha polls, the saffron outfit has emerged the true opposition in the state, and the Trinamool Congress considers the same as well. With big wigs such as Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP National President JP Nadda campaigning in WB, and TMC MLAs and leaders jumping ship to BJP, Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee has focussed all her attention on keeping the situation under control.
Apart from a lack of presence, Congress and CPM must also need to work on their synchronisation. Many had observed that in the 2016 Assembly election — where the two had worked together — the Congress votes did not go to the CPM pulling the left party down while the former got ahead. The parties split ahead of the 2019 election and it didn’t work out for either of them. Political analysts had also observed that the alliance between CPM and Congress would be able to pull in the minority and Muslim votes. The situation has changed since then.
One of TMC’s star players, Suvendhu Adhikari had a certain influence among the Muslim voters, but now with his move to BJP, this is a remarkable loss to Mamata. Moreover, All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi is eyeing West Bengal as a potential target. He had already created an impact in Bihar by taking away a good share of the “communal votes” as some claim and won five seats. With his presence in West Bengal, the situation of the Muslim votes remain an unknown factor, and he has also been a large presence in national politics in a while and experts believe that he can tap into more than just community votes.
It all boils down to two factors: each a major argument for why BJP and TMC believe that the Congress-CPM alliance is good for them. BJP believes that the alliance would steal TMC’s minority vote-bank and give the saffron party an edge over the rest. While TMC claims that the alliance would eat into the anti-TMC sentiment and destroy BJP’s chances. The important fact is that it all depends on whether the CPM and Congress can form a gentleman’s agreement on seat sharing and work together.