When two days back Rahul Gandhi was on his first round of electioneering in West Bengal in the once Left stronghold, in Burdwan district, he was endorsing and cementing the tactical arrangement of Left Congress combine against the might of the Trinamool Congress in the state. The over enthusiast Left supporters carrying the red flags, went overboard shouting “Rahul Gandhi Lal Salaam” in the rally in Kulti, a sign of Left approval for the alliance, that was earlier being widely contested by political leaders skeptical of the Left Congress alignment at the ground level in West Bengal.
But it seems perfect timed at the ground level. In Rahul's jansabha (public meeting), more than the Congress supporters, it was the enthusiasm of the Left noticeable by their red flags with their separate symbols of their individual parties, the CPIM, CPI, FB, RSP that they use to keep their own party identity intact. For almost every four Left flag there appeared to be just a single tricolor with the hand imprint, denoting the presence of Congress supporters.
This is understandable particularly in the once Left bastion where Rahul Gandhi campaigned for the Congress candidate Baiswanath Pariyal, the three time councilor of the Trinamool Congress who has switched sides to the congress just a few days before candidates lists were announced to take on the Trinamool MLA and present mayor of Durgapur, Apoorva Mukherjee. Later the Congress vice president also campaigned at Kulti, for the Left candidate from Jamuria, Jehanara Khan, who also happens to be the Left sitting MLA from the constituency. The Congress vice president shared the dais with the local Left leader Bansagopal Chowdhury, one time minister in Buddhadeb Bhattacharya government. Senior leaders of the Left from the state or centre were conspicuous by their absence, but not that they were missed at all. Karyakartas chanted 'lal salaam' and 'Inquilaab zindabad', for Rahul Gandhi in the rally for the Left candidate.
Rahul took the opportunity to test the waters. He went on explaining as to why the Left and the Congress should be together. The justification for the historical baggage of the severe rivalry that existed between the Left and Congress till about five years ago and has been put aside for this elections. In fact the explanations should have strongly come from the Left leadership because just five years ago the Congress was the partner of the Trinamool Congress and had demolished the thirty five year old Left citadel. Even now they are on opposite camps in Kerela and the seniors still seem to be in doubts whether to bluntly endorse the coalition and face adverse results.
Rahul took it strongly because he knew he was speaking more to the Left supporters. He said, “I asked Congress karyakarta on the ground, not the leaders, on how they want to fight here. And all of them said they want to align with the Left and fight Trinamool Congress. And they want to fight Mamataji because she betrayed us.”
“I have made possible what you asked for. So the Congress workers, you happen to be our backbone. Go to the field together holding hands of the Left Karyakartas and fight the Trinamool Congress to form the Coalition government here”, he said this to huge applause, an endorsement to the coalition that both the Left leadership and the Congress were waiting to hear.
Both of Rahul’s rallies saw the Left supporters in big numbers waving their flags, queuing up organized in trademark style, sloganeering unabashedly for the coalition. They say they have to, even if their leaders still remain elusive. “There is no option if we want to just survive in the state. We are taking on the might of the Trinamool. Even if the leaders are uncomfortable we do not have an option here. The opposition has to stand together”, says Md Imtayaz a local left supporter who doubled as polling agent for the Left in the last elections. He had been living in Kolkata since the Trinamool was voted to power five years back and has returned only now to campaign for his party.
“Yes, we support Rahul Gandhi if he speaks for us. The Congress will speak for us in the Centre and here the Left will lead the coalition, so why not jointly contest. Since the ‘JOTH’ (alliance) has come into being, the scenario has changed”, speaks another self proclaimed Left supporter Bikash Kumar holding the Congress flag in Kulti. “This is for the congress candidate here, in Durgapur.”
Congress party has clarified that for now there is no joint campaigning of senior leaders from the Centre and the stage will not be shared in the already planned Sonia Gandhi rallies in the coming days but the writing on the wall is clear. The fear of the leaders about their grassroots workers has not come true. This election it is not coming from the leadership anymore. The grassroots workers have already decided. If they were to give a fight in West Bengal they have to join hands even with the ones they were opposed to always.