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Why both BJP and Trinamool see advantage in Congress-CPM tie-up for Bengal polls

Congress and CPM fought 2016 assembly elections together, accounting for almost 39% of vote-share. In 2019, the alliance split, a move that hurt both parties badly.

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Kolkata: The ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition BJP, seen as the principal challenger in the state, are both convinced that they will gain advantages in the Congress-CPI(M) tie-up for the West Bengal elections next year.

The Congress and the CPI(M) had fought the 2016 assembly elections together, managing to win 76 of the 294 seats and accounting for almost 39 per cent of the vote-share. They had, however, split ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. On Saturday, the two parties joined hands for the West Bengal and Assam elections, both to be held next year.

In Bengal, the rising BJP sees the alliance as an opportunity to consolidate its position but so does the ruling Trinamool Congress. As such, both parties have their own permutations and combinations on how the alliance will benefit them.

Mukul Roy, the BJP’s national vice president, told ThePrint his party believes that the Congress-CPI(M) tie-up will eat into Mamata Banerjee’s “minority vote-bank”.

“I am sure that Trinamool’s Muslim vote-bank will be split,” Roy said. “In 2019, Muslims voted for Trinamool as a block. And we got Hindu votes from Congress and CPM. Our votes are still consolidated and intact. Even though, it is a calculation over a speculative situation, we can say that Trinamool’s Muslim vote-bank will be dented. It may help the BJP.”

The Trinamool Congress, though, sees it differently. “Our minority vote-bank is stable. In fact, the 45 per cent vote-share of Trinamool Congress is still consolidated,” said party veteran Sougata Roy.

“The Congress-CPM alliance will divide the Opposition vote. So the anti-Trinamool votes will go to two blocks, and not just one. It may become an advantage for us. In 2019, CPM votes were transferred to BJP and that gave them the necessary boost. But this election, it might not happen.”

He further said that the Congress-CPI(M) tie-up is a “bit flawed”. “In order to stop the BJP, they need to work on their alliance,” he said. “Their support base and workers need to be together. Congress votes were not transferred to CPM in 2016, which pulled the CPM down.”

Experts, however, claim that the Bihar election results will have the defining impact on Bengal’s political arrangements.

“We see a section of Muslims votes going in favour of Congress and CPM. The Congress unit in Bengal is the first party that spoke and acted in favour of the migrant labourers,” said Biswanath Chakraborti, a Kolkata-based political analyst.

“The migrants are Muslim-majority and they come from all border districts of Bengal. The CPM also did many things for them like running canteens and distributing relief to help the migrants. They may get some political dividend from that.

“But the Bihar election is a major factor,” he added. “If the Congress-RJD alliance in Bihar does not succeed, the Congress-CPM alliance may not get any boost or support from voters. The Congress may become insignificant in the state, barring some constituencies in Malda and Murshidabad. So, Bengal parties have a lot at stake and they are looking at the Bihar results.”

Also read: The Bengal minister, once key to Mamata’s politics, who is now ‘revolting’ against her

The Congress-CPI(M) tie-up

The Congress-CPI(M) alliance comes on the back of the disastrous Lok Sabha performance of both parties. Their cumulative vote share had dropped to around 12 per cent in those elections, with the CPM drawing a blank in terms of seats. The Congress managed to win just two of the 42 Parliamentary seats in the state.

The CPM’s central committee Saturday approved an electoral understanding with the Congress, “in order to defeat both right wing parties, Trinamool and BJP”.

The Congress always wanted to continue with the alliance in the state, but it was the CPM Politburo that decided to write off the arrangement before the 2019 general elections.

It hurt both parties.

While the Congress won 44 seats in the 2016 assembly elections, the CPI(M) won 26. Six of the seats were held by other Left Front constituents. Together they all had garnered 39 per cent of the vote share.

In the 2019 Parliamentary elections, the Left parties ended up with a vote-share of 6.34 per cent, a sharp drop from the 26 per cent in the 2016 assembly elections. Not only did the CPI(M) not win a single seat, it did not even lead in any assembly segment. The Congress vote share dropped to 5.67 per cent in 2019 from 12.25 per cent in 2016 but the party did end up with two Lok Sabha seats. It led in nine assembly segments.

Senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborti admitted that the numbers played a part in the alliance decision.

“The understanding was always there. But in our party structure, we need to review and analyse every situation and the arrangements,” he said. “So, for 2021, we decided to go with Congress but it will not affect the Kerala model where we are opponents. Political arrangements depend on political scenarios of that particular state. We are equidistant from both BJP and Trinamool, two Right wing parties, two sides of the same coin.”

On seat-sharing formula, he said, “The discussions on seat sharing have not been initiated. We will do it once the Bihar election results are out.”

The Congress too has decided to wait until the Bihar results.

“We now need to do a lot of political programmes together. In 2016, there was some gap between the Congress and CPM workers at the ground level. The Congress workers had reservations and they resisted the leaders’ decision of getting together,” West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.

“Since Bengal has a long standing history of Congress and CPM being opponents, it was difficult to bring them on the same platform. We need to do this now and the seat-sharing will come later.”

Also read: Ghosh vs Khan in Bengal BJP is a fight for control between old guard & Trinamool defectors


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  1. Cpm and congress will get zero in bengal elections but will win in kerela with a simple majority, pappu will fail again as always in both states

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