The run-up to the panchayat elections in West Bengal, slated to be held on Monday, has silently brought two archrivals, BJP and CPM, together at least at the grassroots. Workers of both parties have decided to support each other wherever one could not file nomination due to the alleged hooliganism of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).
This bonhomie first came to light when a joint rally was organised in the Ranaghat area of Nadia district by the CPM and BJP to protest against the violence unleashed allegedly by the TMC during the nomination filing process for the panchayat elections.
However, senior leaders from both parties maintain that it is “not a formal seat sharing adjustment” and that state level leaders have nothing to do with this kind of understanding between the workers of the two parties.
District and block level leaders of both parties who spoke to The Sunday Guardian, however, said that the main aim of such an understanding is to try and contain the TMC.
The fierce battle for panchayat polls in West Bengal has been mired in violent clashes and litigation. The BJP has filed over 30,000 nominations in the 58,000 panchayat seats, while the CPM has filed 21,750 nominations. Some 18,000 seats stayed uncontested where the ruling TMC had no opposition; however, the Supreme Court has stayed the declaration of results in these uncontested seats.
One senior BJP leader from Nadia district told this correspondent, “On the demand of the local people, we have come to an understanding that we will support each other (CPM-BJP) to keep the TMC in check. It is not about seat sharing, but cooperating with each other to check the dictatorial TMC’s hooliganism.”
According to sources, both parties have decided to help independent candidates in almost all districts.
“At several places, we (BJP) have not been allowed to file nominations, and in some places our candidates were forced to withdraw their nominations. In such places, we have decided to support either the independent candidates or the CPM candidate,” the BJP leader from North 24 Parganas district said.
CPM workers on the ground are also happy with this unofficial “understanding”.
On the condition of anonymity, a CPM functionary from Bengal said, “Though we are poles apart in our ideologies, we have decided collectively and, on the demand of the local people to support each other’s candidates.”
Several joint rallies and joint campaigning by the CPM and BJP were seen at the village and block levels in districts like North 24 Parganas, Birbhum, Nadia, Purulia and Midnapore.
Senior BJP leaders have called this understanding at the grassroots a “compulsive” understanding, rather than a “tacit” understanding.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, senior BJP leader and state vice president Jayprakash Majumdar said, “It is a compulsive understanding that the ground level workers of both the parties have come to without even bothering about the message from the top leaders—it is to oppose the autocratic rule of the ruling TMC government. All those who oppose the TMC have found the BJP to be the major Opposition party, which can take on the TMC government; therefore, all ground level workers who are anti-TMC are locally supporting the BJP. Ground workers of the CPM, which has units at the village level, have also decided to support the BJP wherever possible. And this is a phenomenon that is happening in Bengal, taking into consideration the ground reality and not something which is being propagated from the top.”
The CPM, however, maintained that they would not get into any understanding with the BJP and called the TMC and BJP “two sides of the same coin”.
Dr Fuad Halim, senior CPM leader from Bengal and spokesperson, told The Sunday Guardian, “There is no understanding between the CPM and BJP. The BJP at all levels is our political enemy and if any of our workers are seen to be supporting the BJP or giving an impression to support the BJP, those workers will be expelled forthright from the party. We have always maintained that the BJP and the TMC are all the same. In fact, the BJP has grown in Bengal under the shelter of the TMC. We will not support either of the parties in any circumstances.”