A day after West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee president Somen Mitra expressed his party’s willingness to align with the Left in the state for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Left Front partners were divided over the proposal.
A meeting of the Left Front has been organised at the state CPM headquarters on Monday where leaders of Forward Bloc, CPI and RSP are supposed to make their stand clear on the alliance. Forward Bloc state secretary Naren Chatterjee said, “We do not want an alliance with the Congress. We want to contest Lok Sabha elections on our own strength, and as Left Front. We have learnt our lessons from 2016 Assembly polls when the Congress benefited from our votes. Going by that experience, we don’t want to repeat such a thing.” He was referring to the informal electoral alliance between the two parties in 2016 Assembly elections when the Left Front recorded its worst performance in 40 years.
In 2016, the Left Front and Congress together had won 76 out of 294 seats in West Bengal after registering about 38 per cent vote share.
The Left Front had registered 26 per cent vote share, while the Congress posted 12 per cent. Despite such a low vote share, Congress won 44 seats, while the Left Front managed to bag only 32.
Echoing Chatterjee, veteran RSP leader Kshiti Goswami also spoke against the proposal. “We are not in favour of this. We have heard what Somen babu said yesterday but we do not want to go with them. A Left Front meeting has been convened tomorrow (Monday) where we shall make our stand clear before the CPM leadership,” Goswami told The Indian Express.
After a meeting on Saturday with the party high command, Mitra had said the party was willing to align with the Left “without sacrificing its dignity”. Though Forward Bloc and RSP expressed their unwillingness to tie up with the Congress, the CPI seemed upbeat about it. “We are willing to hold a discussion in this regard. But first let us receive such a proposal from them. After we get it, we must discuss it in the Left Front meeting. We have been saying it from the beginning that we have to align with the Congress to defeat both TMC and BJP in West Bengal. However, the alliance must be with the Left Front and not just with the CPM,” said CPI state secretary Swapan Banerjee.
The CPM which is the biggest Left Front constituent has been advocating an alliance with the Congress for a long time. CPM state secretary Surjyakanta Mishra in October last year asked his party workers to vote for Congress in places where the Congress is the only alternative to BJP. Mishra also extended his party’s support to Congress in its fight against TMC and BJP in West Bengal.
“We need to stand together with secular and democratic forces to defeat the TMC and BJP here. Congress is definitely a secular and democratic party. We had entered into an electoral understanding with them before and the present situation also demands similar kind of arrangements. We will hold talks with the Left Front constituents before taking a final decision,” said a senior CPM leader on condition of anonymity.
Explained: TMC hopes to reap dividends from ‘alliance’
Unperturbed by the growing speculation over Congress-Left Front alliance in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress leaders said that as long as the Opposition votes get divided, the ruling party will not be challenged at all. “This will also keep BJP at bay as the combination of Congress and Left Front votes will push BJP to the third position. A three-corner contest will only ensure that our vote share remains intact,” said a senior TMC leader.