In order to defeat Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, the Left is not averse to a strategy which would see it taking the support of both the Congress and the BJP. The BJP’s approval will be more subtle due to the CPM’s compulsion to maintain its “secular” image. The party, however, will not forge an electoral alliance with the Congress.
According to party leaders, the CPM has faced much attack and intimidation by the TMC cadre and would do whatever is required to survive in a tough state like West Bengal where violence is par for the course. The CPM has allied with the BJP in the past at the national level, most notably in 1977 and 1989. “The police are targeting us in Kolkata while the TMC is doing the same in the villages,” said a senior CPM leader. The leader was referring to the lathicharge by Kolkata police on CPM supporters during a protest march earlier this week which left several of them wounded.
The CPM decided to maintain equidistance from the BJP and the Congress in the electoral arena during the last CPM national conference held in Vizag earlier this year. Party sources were extremely cautious while speaking of the “understanding” which has been seen recently in West Bengal between the BJP, Congress and the CPM in getting candidates of the TMC defeated, most notably in Siliguri where the CPM voted for the Congress candidate in the civic elections. However, without wanting to put a label on the strategy, they did spell it out.
“Efforts will be made to put up the strongest candidate everywhere in the Assembly elections, and they will be supported across the board, regardless of party affiliations. The aim would be to end the anarchic rule of the TMC,” said a senior leader of the CPM, who enjoys access to the new general secretary Sitaram Yechury. This “understanding” for most part will be limited to the CPM and Congress, sources added.
Sources claimed that the victory in Siliguri — which is already being spoken of as the Siliguri Model — was due to the leadership provided by Sitaram Yechury who has been known to enjoy good relations with the Congress. In fact, observers were concerned that the CPM line of not forging electoral alliances was against the working style of Yechury who enjoys cordial relations with leaders cutting across parties.
Meanwhile, the party also continues to collect information regarding organisational activities from cadres and leaders, which includes a look at the insufficient number of those from marginalised classes, including women in a leadership role. “The exercise is on-going and the findings will be discussed at the plenum,” the leader said. The plenum, which is scheduled for December this year, will look into the specific organisational weaknesses of the party. “It would be fair to comment on Yechury’s role in leading the party only after the plenum is held which will give us a better idea of how to put our house back in order again,” the leader said. However, sources mentioned that the party is likely to see more organisational activities than before, and possibly better electoral results in states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — where Yechury hails from — and Maharashtra where he has worked in an organisational capacity.
However, in Kerala, the party is playing a dangerous game, according to observers, by indulging in a spiralling war of words with a powerful state based organisation which represents the Ezhava community that forms the backbone of the CPM’s support base in the state. V.S. Achuthanandan, the party’s strongest leader has accused the organisation of financial irregularities. A senior CPM leader said that Achuthanandan’s comments were “taking the matter too far. They have done some good work in the past. It is the right-wing forces which are trying to garner votes of the Ezhava community and instigating them against us,” the leader claimed.