How far will West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her party Trinamool Congress be able to strike a chord in the event of a united opposition against the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls? How acceptable will the Trinamool Congress be to other opposition parties especially the Congress in such a grand alliance? These are the topics of discussion currently in the state.
However, the answers to these questions are quite tricky and do not seem to be really positive for the ruling party in West Bengal. Political observers feel that in the current situation of political turmoil the scope is limited for the Trinamool Congress to concentrate fully on a national-level alliance after handling the multi-issues confronting the party in the state.
Mamata Banerjee, who is presently the sole authority to speak on the matter, has claimed a number of times that before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls the anti-BJP parties will come together automatically.
However, political analysts and observers feel that the possibilities of the Trinamool Congress having any pre-poll understanding seems to be out of question at this stage.
According to political analyst Raja Gopal Dhar Chakraborty, there are multiple reasons why the possibility of the Trinamool Congress having a pre-poll alliance in West Bengal is out of the question. “If at all there is a pre-poll alliance in West Bengal with the Trinamool Congress as a party in that understanding, the only option for the state’s ruling party is to have it with the Congress. But that seems to be out of question since the state Congress leadership is keener on having an understanding with the Left Front rather than the Trinamool Congress. And after the CPI(M)-Congress understanding for the forthcoming Tripura assembly polls, the friendship between the two forces is getting stronger, which I think will continue till 2024,” he said.
Secondly, he added, the Trinamool Congress is itself a factor for making a pre-poll alliance difficult in West Bengal. “Seat sharing agreement is a primary condition for any pre-poll alliance. Since Mamata Banerjee’s aim is to gain the maximum seats, she will never agree to any such seat-sharing agreement that the Congress will find respectable.”
From the national perspective also the party is facing a credibility crisis as an acceptable constituent of any grand alliance.
According to another political analyst Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay, the Trinamool Congress’s approach and actions over the elections of the President and Vice-President of India last year had affected the credibility and acceptability of the Trinamool Congress among the other opposition parties.
“All opposition parties, including Trinamool Congress’s arch political rival CPI(M) agreed on fielding Yashwant Sinha, the-then national vice-president of the Trinamool Congress as the unanimous opposition candidate in the Presidential polls. In that process CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury had to give explanations multiple times on the decision to back Sinha. But Mamata Banerjee herself spoiled the united opposition’s plan as soon as she said that if she knew that the BJP was fielding Droupadi Murmu as the Presidential candidate, she could have thought of giving Murmu her support. Sinha lost the polls and since then no one has heard of him maintaining his connection with the Trinamool Congress,” he said.
According to him, the Trinamool Congress’s second shocker came when the united opposition had fielded veteran Congress leader Margaret Alva against BJP candidate and then West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar for the Vice-President’s post. “Considering the tension between the state government and Governor House during Dhankhar’s tenure as governor, it was believed the Trinamool Congress would throw its weight behind Alva. But what happened is that the Trinamool Congress decided to abstain from voting in the polls thus giving Dhankhar a leap ahead since the beginning. This prompted both the Congress and the CPI(M) to be vocal about a clandestine BJP-Trinamool understanding at the national level. While other regional parties in the opposition camp were not that vocal like the Congress and the CPI(M) on this count, surely the consecutive developments over the President and Vice-President had not been taken lightly by them,” he said.
Another political observer Arundhati Mukherjee says that how far the Trinamool Congress will be able to project itself as a dominant player in the united opposition will depend much on how the party performs in the forthcoming assembly polls in Meghalaya and Tripura, where West Bengal’s ruling party will be contesting in a big way.
“If the Trinamool Congress can come up with a good performance in the assembly polls in these two states, then it will have some voice in a probable grand opposition alliance before 2024. But if it is seen that the Trinamool Congress’ vote share in Meghalaya and Tripura has actually benefited the BJP in taking advantage of the division in opposition votes, then undoubtedly the party’s relevance in the national opposition space will come down further,” she said.