Out of op­tions, Cong and CPM come to­gether again

The Indian Express - - N.E.W.S. - ESHA ROY

BEN­GAL MU­NIC­I­PAL POLLS

ALTHOUGH THEIR ex­per­i­ment in the 2016 assem­bly elec­tions had failed, the Left Front and the Congress have once again come to­gether for Sun­day’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in West Ben­gal. It is not a for­mal al­liance: the Congress calls it a “seat-shar­ing strat­egy” while the CPM calls it an “ex­er­cise to unite all demo­cratic forces” against the Tri­namool Congress and the BJP.

The un­der­stand­ing is in three mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the plains — Raiganj (north Di­na­jpur), Domkal (Mur­shid­abad) and Pu­jali (South 24Par­ganas) — while elec­tions are also be­ing held to four mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the hills.

In 2011, the Tri­namool’s vic­tory in 211 of the 294 assem­bly seats had left the Congress with just 44 and the CPM with 25. It brought the Ben­gal CPM un­der at­tack from the cen­tral com­mit­tee, which de­cided there would be no al­liance with the Congress. As such, the Ben­gal CPM does not de­scribe the cur­rent un­der­stand­ing as an al­liance.

“There is no al­liance and it can’t be called seat shar­ing. This is just an ex­er­cise to en­sure that all demo­cratic forces come to­gether to fight against the mis­rule of Tri­namool Congress and the com­mu­nal pol­i­tics of the BJP,” says CPM spokesper­son Mo­ham­mad Salim, also MP from Raiganj which is go­ing to polls. Ja­davpur MLA Su­jan Chakraborty echoes Salim: “We are sim­ply try­ing to get peo­ple to­gether — all the demo­cratic forces to­gether. It’s not about seat shar­ing. It’s a larger fight against an un­demo­cratic Tri­namool Congress and a com­mu­nal BJP,”

The Congress has been more open about it. PCC gen­eral sec­re­tary O P Mishra says a seat-shar­ing mod­ule has been worked out with the Left. In Raiganj, tra­di­tion­ally a Congress bas­tion un­til it elected Salim, the Congress will con­test 18 seats and the CPM nine, he says. In Domkal, part of PCC pres­i­dent Ad­hir Ranjan Chowd­hury’s home dis­trict, the Congress will con­test 10 and the CPM 11; in Pu­jali, each will con­test eight seats.

“The seat shar­ing is based on which can­di­date is likely to win,” says the Congress’s Mishra. “In Raiganj, Salim is MP while the Congress has been strong for decades and in the last elec­tions we cap­tured 60 per cent of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. There are pock­ets where the Left Front is strong and the CPM has fielded can­di­dates.”

In both Domkal and Raiganj, a num­ber of Congress lead­ers have switched over to the Tri­namool Congress. “It is true that the Tri­namool Congress has made ma­jor in­roads, so it be­comes even more im­por­tant for the Op­po­si­tion to come to­gether,” Mishra says.

“Hon­estly, nei­ther the Left nor the Congress has a choice,” ad­mits a CPM worker. “If we can’t come to­gether, then the Tri­namool will sweep the polls or, worse, the BJP will gain ground. As far as the cen­tral com­mit­tee is con­cerned, its di­rec­tions were spe­cific to state and na­tional elec­tions, while mu­nic­i­pal polls are very lo­cal.”

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