Kolkata/New Delhi May 20 (IANS) The Left isn’t marching on the streets of Bengal anymore. Out of power since they were routed in 2011, the Comrades were hoping for a comeback in the 2016 assembly election in their former Red citadel. But that was not to be, not even after a tie-up with the Congress.
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee and her green troopers have smothered the Left-Congress alliance for good. The Left Front has been relegated to the third position, scoring just 32 seats in the 294-member West Bengal assembly. The Congress has fared better, winning 44 constituencies — an increase by two seats from its 2011 count.
It was the tie-up with its old foe Congress that the Left Front was banking upon, hoping that it would revive its electoral fortunes against a rampaging Trinamool. But political analysts feel that the Left dug its own grave by tying up with the Congress.
Contrary to the expectations, the alliance did not work at all, especially for the Left. The fight was between Trinamool’s development plank and the opposition’s charges of corruption. People voted for development.
“The biggest bane for the tie-up has been its persistent negative attack on Mamata. The alliance remained silent on its own programmes if it came to power, and thus failed to project itself as a viable alternative to the Trinamool,” analyst Udayan Banerjee told IANS.
Contesting in 193 seats and lending support to associate parties and independents in 11 others, the Left’s share plummeted to 32 seats from the 62 it had won in 2011. The combine’s vote share stood at 24 percent as against the 41 percent it had garnered five years back when it contested in all 294 seats.
Bagging just 26 seats, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) came up with its worst performance since 1972, when it had to be content with 14. Among its partners, the Revolutionary Socialist Party got three, the All-India Forward Bloc two, and the Communist Party of India just one.
Even in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections the Left Front had managed 29.71 percent of vote share in the state bagging two seats as against the Trinamool which had polled 39.05 percent votes to win 34 seats. However, the Left had then contested all the 42 seats.
Unlike its ally Left, the Congress came up with a better performance.
Contesting in only 108 seats, the Congress won 44 constituencies, surpassing its 2011 tally of 42 seats. It also improved its vote percentage this time to 12.3 percent as against the 8.91 percent it got in 2011 when it had contested in alliance with the Trinamool.
Citing Congress’s performance, analysts say the tie-up was counter-productive for the Left.
“While both the Left and the Congress did assert the tie-up was a peoples’ call, the result prove that the arrangement was not acceptable to many, especially the core Congress supporters who have suffered decades of atrocities during the Left regime.
“It is because of the tie-up that Trinamool surpassed the 200 mark as large number of Congress voters ended up voting for the Trinamool,” analyst Anil Kumar Jana told IANS.According to sources, a section of central CPI-M leadership was not in favour of alliance with the Congress.
“There are various factors behind the current results. The alliance with the Congress may or may not be a contributing facto”,” senior CPI-M leader Nilotpal Basu told IANS.
“A major misreading on our part was the anti-incumbency factor. We thought there would be anti-incumbency against the ruling party but there was no”e,” Basu added.
CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury blamed the ruling Trinamool Congress for his pa’ty’s poor show.”
“It was a tough fight for us given the violence and intimidation unleashed by the party in power. Many of our brave comrades lost their li”es,” Yechury said.
He avoided a direct response on the future of his p’rty’s alliance with the Congress in West Beng”l. “We had formed the alliance to resist the violent forces and protect the democratic rights and civil liberties of the people. The resistance would conti”ue,” Yechury said.
While the daggers are still not out in the CPI-M, some of the Leftists are pointing fingers at the Congress.”
“The Left voters extended their wholehearted support to the Congress, but I feel there remains a question mark over Congress votes coming to us,” said CPI-M politburo member Mohammad Salim, admitting that the tie-up “failed to convey the right message to the masses”.
Even as he insisted the tie-up continued to be relevant, CPI-M state secretary and face of the combine Surjya Kanta Mishra too echoed Salim”
“A majority of those who remained silent, voted for the Trinamool,” said Mishra who himself suffered a humiliating defeat from Narayangarh which had been electing him unfailingly since 1991.
Analysts Jana and Banerjee pointed out the Left-Congress alliance failed to benefit from the decrease in the BJP’s vote share of 10.20 percent from the impressive 16.8 percent it had polled in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
However, political analysts Biswanath Chakraborty insists that without the tie-up the Left would have suffered far more ignominy.
“Contrary to inference by many, it was the tie-up that saved the Left the blushes. The tie-up gave the much-needed impetus to its campaign, rejuvenated party cadres and supporters, and created a stir in the media. In fact, before the actual results were declared many believed the tie-up will score over the Trina”ool,” Chakraborty told IANS.
But in the end, the Left Front is now left with almost nothing. It has to deal with organisational deficiency as it accepts the fact that people of Bengal are not ready to give it another chance.
(Anurag Dey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; Mohd Asim Khan can be contacted at email@example.com)