In a major step towards a broad opposition unity against the BJP, the West Bengal unit of the CPI(M) agreed to a tie-up with its arch rival Trinamool Congress at the national level.
The state unit of the Left party reportedly conveyed to its central leadership about the softening of its stand vis-a-vis TMC as hectic backroom parleys continue among leaders of non-BJP parties to cobble together a united opposition front.
Sources in the CPI(M) said the Bengal unit now wanted to follow the Kerala model.
“Our central leadership was told that the state unit will have no objection if a grand opposition alliance is cobbled together by roping in all anti-BJP parties, including the TMC,” a CPI-M source said. “The party can follow the Kerala model as far as its relation with the TMC is concerned.”
In Kerala the CPI-M’s main political rival is the Congress. But at the national level, the two parties do not have any qualms about joining hands for a mega anti-BJP alliance.
In Assam, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Congress and the Left jointly fought the recently held assembly elections, despite their bitter electoral contest in Kerala. The Left parties and the Congress were also part of a grand alliance in Bihar elections last year.
The CPI(M) now is now contemplating a similar Congress-like relationship with the TMC. “We have no problem with anyone who wants to join the fight against the BJP in Delhi [at the Centre],” West Bengal CPI(M) secretary Surya Kanta Mishra said on Friday [July 16]. He, however, made it clear that in the state, the party would continue to fight both the BJP and the TMC.
In the past, the CPI(M) had expressed its reservation to join any national-level anti-BJP alliance of which the TMC was a constituent. The party state leadership always put the BJP and the TMC in the same bracket despite the objection from smaller Left parties such as the CPI-ML Liberation and SUCI.
The change of heart is more of a compulsion for the CPI(M) as its bargaining capacity took a severe beating after its whitewash in the Bengal assembly election.
“The CPI(M) runs the risk of being isolated at the national level if it refuses to be seen with the TMC in any future grand anti-BJP alliance. The TMC, after all, is expected to bring more MPs to any such prospective alliance than all the Left parties together,” said Kolkata-based senior journalist and political commentator Nirmalya Banerjee.
The Left parties drew a blank in the 2019 Lok Sabha election as well as the 2021 assembly polls in Bengal.
Since the rout in the assembly election, the CPI(M) state leadership was under tremendous pressure from within the party as well as from other alliance partners not to equate the TMC and the BJP, sources said.
During an internal assessment many of its candidates as well as district committee leaders cited the faulty party line as one of the reasons for its electoral debacles in May this year.
For the first time since independence, no Left candidate could make it to the state assembly, forcing the party to rethink its policy.
A 24-page report of the party containing views of the candidates and district committees, compiled recently, said that by taking a shrill anti-TMC stand, the CPI(M) sent across a wrong message to the voters that it was soft towards the BJP.
Quoting the report, the party sources said it was felt that the CPI(M)-led alliance’s campaign was more against the TMC than the BJP, which was a wrong strategy.
Many also criticised the CPI(M) state leadership’s decision to join hands with the Indian Secular Front (ISF) led by Furfura Sharif’s cleric Abbas Siddiqui, claiming that the alliance weakened the party’s secular credentials.
Under pressure, Mishra in a Facebook Live on July 7 had acknowledged that putting the BJP and the TMC in the same bracket was a mistake it made in the recent elections.
He said the coinage of words such as ‘Bijemool’ to imply that the BJP and the TMC were the two sides of the same coin was wrong and created confusion as to who the main enemy of the party was.