By Rajat Roy
Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has ruled out any pre-poll truck with Trinamool Congress in the upcoming Assembly elections, strengthening prospects of an alliance with the Left Front in a marriage of convenience.
Chowdhury was guarded in his statements after meeting AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Monday, but gave enough indication that such a coalition with CPM — their once bitter rivals — is indeed a possibility.
After a 90-minute meeting between Rahul Gandhi and a 17-member Bengal Congress delegation, Chowdhury said that at least one thing has been finalised — unlike previous occasions, there won’t be any pre-poll alliance with the TMC.
According to Adhir and other state leaders, Rahul assured them that the High Command won’t take any decision detrimental to the interest of its state unit.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of increasing clamour from the state Congress and CPM leaders who desperately want to give their past acrimony a quiet burial and present a united front to pose a challenge to the ruling TMC.
Only two members of the delegation, Jangipur MP Abhijit Mukherjee (son of President Pranab Mukherjee), and Manas Bhuniya were in favour of adopting a ‘ekla chalo re’ policy, i.e., fighting it alone.
Rest of the team (15 out of 17), however, were strongly in favour of forming an alliance with the Left. “'The TMC has betrayed us. They have unleashed a reign of terror in Bengal,” Chowdhury, Bengal unit president, said.
Abdul Mannan, who had been the first to come out openly in favour of a tie-up, said: “Unless TMC is defeated in the poll and ousted from power, the Congress can’t survive. To make that happen, we need alliance with the Left.”
The CPM had long been demanding of the Congress to come clear on their position.
Former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra and other top leaders from the state have been piling pressure on the Congress central leadership.
For the Left, these are desperate times.
Since May 13, 2011, the date they were thrown out of power, about 170 CPM workers have been killed so far due to violent clashes against the TMC.
A few thousand Left Front cadres and sympathisers have fled their homes and have been staying since in makeshift shelters offered by the party. Most of these incidents of violence took place in Bengal’s Hooghly, Burdwan, North and South 24 Parganas, East and West Midnapore districts.
According to the party, hundreds of its workers have been arrested and thrown in prison on “fictitious” charges; a good number of CPM party offices throughout the state have forcibly been occupied by armed TMC men.
The police, allege the CPM, have played and are still playing a very partisan role. As armed TMC goons continued their relentless attack in battle to occupy the rural heartland of Bengal, a good number of party members and workers crossed over to join TMC or became demoralized and politically inactive.
Congress also faced a similar fate. But their influence being smaller, their exposure to the violence was less. Still, a number of Congress MLAs, elected representatives in Panchayat and municipal bodies have joined the TMC.
After bleeding hugely and losing badly in successive elections in the last four years, it gradually dawned on both the CPM and Congress that they cannot stem the rot on their own. Thus the idea of forming a united front against TMC was born.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose said they are still awaiting the final decision from Congress High Command.
“We have already made our intention public. Now Congress vice president will be briefing about it to the Congress president. Let's wait and see.”
Congress leaders from Bengal are optimistic. Adhir added: “TMC consists of a motley crowd of petty criminals, terrorist, Maoists, Muslim fundamentalists, smugglers of illegal arms, narcotics mafia and other anti-social elements.
“TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee harbours all these criminals under her wings. Naturally, people of Bengal would like to put an end to TMC rule”, he said.
Mamata refrained from giving an immediate reaction. Earlier she had attacked the formation of a Congress-Left Front alliance, calling it “unprincipled”. Perhaps revealing a nervousness about the eventuality.