As BJP Strengthens Roots in Bengal, Congress and CPI-M Plan Aggressive Strategy Ahead of 2021 Assembly Polls

Kolkata: The BJP has made deep inroads in West Bengal and emerged as the main opposition against the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) by pushing the Congress and Left Front to an ‘insignificant position’. The latter parties now need to prevent the split of anti-TMC and anti-BJP votes in state’s politics to re-secure their positions as key challengers before Mamata Banerjee ahead of 2021 assembly polls.

The Congress and CPI(M) had joined hands during the 2016 assembly polls, but both parties failed to create much impact in Bengal politics. Surprisingly, the Left Front which ruled Bengal for 34 years drew a blank in the last Lok Sabha elections. Then, Congress-CPI(M) fell apart after they were unable to reach an agreement on the seat-sharing deal.

On the other hand, the saffron brigade managed to secure 18 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 in the state, while TMC’s seat decreased from 34 in 2014 to 22 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. The Congress’ tally came down from four to two, while the Left Front failed to open an account in 2019 Lok Sabha.

Many in the political fraternity felt that failed strategy and lack of flexibility in taking decisions (keeping the sentiments of both Congress and the Left Front) is paving a way for the BJP to move aggressively in Bengal.

Speaking to News18, political expert Kapil Thakur said, “The ideology of Congress and the CPI(M) is completely different and differences of opinion are inevitable. But despite that, for the larger interest of the people, both the parties must compromise (on taking decisions) to certain extent to take on the BJP and TMC in the state.”

He said, “I personally felt that both Congress and Left Front have failed to organise fruitful political campaigns. They need to intensify their campaign aggressively on what good they have done for Bengal in their 34-years of rule. Only blaming others will not yield any results. It’s time to say the good thing about the party at the block level. Through this approach, I think they will be able to tap nearly 10 per cent anti-TMC and anti-BJP votes apart from securing the vote shares of the TMC and BJP.”

On the context of CPI(M) and Congress alliance impact in state, he said, “If the alliance works out properly, I think it may create some problems before the ruling party and the BJP.”

Both CPI (M) and Congress are going ahead with ‘heterogeneous composition’ to contest against Trinamool Congress BJP in the 2021 polls.

As per an analysis says, from 2011 to 2016 assembly polls and from 2014 to 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has lost nearly 7.3 per cent vote share, while CPI (M) lost its vote share by 9.88 per cent (approx) in state polls and 16 per cent in Lok Sabha.

Leaders of both the parties met on June 24 to chalk out a strategy to work together on the booth level and unanimously agreed on alliance in the coming state polls.

In the 2016 assembly polls, BJP’s vote share was 10.2 per cent and in the 2019 Lok Sabha it went up to 40.3 per cent. There was an increase of 30.1 percent vote share mainly because of Hindus coalescing towards the BJP. In the last three years, BJP managed to cultivate religious driven politics in Bengal and it was evident with its significant rise in Bengal in terms of its vote share.

On other hand, Left Front has lost its vote share by 9.88 per cent from 2011 Assembly to 2016 Assembly polls. In the last two Lok Sabha polls, (in 2014 and in 2019) its vote share further plummeted to nearly 16 per cent.

However, Congress vote share from 2011 to 2016 Assembly increased from 8.91 per cent to 12.3 percent but it fell drastically in 2014 Lok Sabha (9.6 per cent) while in 2019 general elections the party managed to secure only 5 per cent.

“We had an important meeting with the Left Front leaders to decide our next course of action and the state Assembly Polls. The meeting was fruitful and we all decided to go for an alliance,” said Somendra Nath Mitra, state Congress president.

“I feel that our alliance will have a significant impact in the upcoming state polls,” he added.

About discussions on seat sharing, he said, “It is too early to discuss seats adjustment. To start with the Congress and the Left Front, both have decided to take out a protest rally in Kolkata against fuel price hike by the Centre on June 29.”

During 2019 Lok Sabha polls, trouble began after the Left party announced its candidates’ list despite being requested by the state Congress to hold back till the seat-sharing issue was resolved.

Then, Mitra had said, “We have requested the CPI (M) not to announce the list because ‘seat-to-seat’ discussion is yet to be finalised. We need to resolve it first before announcing the list.”

Then the Congress wished to contest from 17 seats, including Purulia, Bankura, Bashirhat, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Krishnanagar, Hooghly, Burdwan, Howrah and Midnapore (both West and East), while the CPI(M) wants to field candidates in 31 seats (so far it has announced candidates for 25 seats).

The two parties have been at loggerheads over a few seats, including Purulia, Basirhat and Jalpaiguri. Also, there were also some issues with the Murshidabad and Raiganj seats (in the last Lok Sabha), but the matter was resolved after Sonia Gandhi spoke to CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

This time, CPI Secretary Swapan Banerjee, who was also present in the meeting with Congress on June 24, is very optimistic about the impact of alliance in the coming polls in the state.

He said, “The meeting was fruitful and we have decided that in future there will be joint movements in Bengal to highlight the anti-people policies of the Centre and the state.”

Recently, CPI (M) leader Amiya Patra, had said, “This alliance is very important considering the present political situation in Bengal. This is a situational alliance because our ideologies are different. This will be a heterogeneous composition to prevent the Trinamool and BJP in Bengal. We have to plan our future course of action keeping the sentiments and respect of each other.”

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