Saturday, May 18, 2024

UPA-3 project in Bengal entangled in too many complications

Nowhere else in India is the anti-BJP opposition coalition as tangled with so many hitches and complications as it is in West Bengal.

On the one hand West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also the supremo of the state’s biggest political force Trinamool Congress has made it clear that there is no question of her party backing the Congress in West Bengal because of the latter’s understanding with the CPI(M).

On the other hand, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has made it clear that in West Bengal both the Trinamool Congress and the BJP are their equal opponents and hence it will go forward in strengthening it ties with the CPI(M)-led Left Front.

Chowdhury’s call has been reciprocated with equal enthusiasm by Left Front leaders like CPI(M)’s state secretary Md Salim and Left Front chairman Biman Bose. Both of them feel that the Left Front and the Congress are political opponents in the southern state of Kerala also.

In the present situation, according to political observers, a pre-poll alliance between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress can be ruled out for the big battle for 2024. At the most, feel observers, there can be a post-poll understanding which again will depend on the performance of the Congress and other regional parties in 2024.

“The chief minister is saying that there is no question of backing Congress in Bengal. Therein lies the question that barring West Bengal, is there any other state where the Trinamool Congress is in a position to bargain. Again West Bengal being the strongest fort of the Trinamool Congress as the ruling party, it is natural that the chief minister would not agree to spare the bare minimum for the Congress as part of a seat-sharing agreement. Going by that logic, it is quite natural for the Trinamool Congress not to have any pre-poll seat sharing arrangement with the Congress in West Bengal,” said political commentator Nirmalya Banerjee.

Similarly, from the Congress’s point of view, he said that having a seat sharing agreement with the Left Front is more logical than having the same with the Trinamool Congress. “In a bargain with the Trinamool Congress, the leadership of the country’s oldest national party can at the most get the two seats with existing Congress MPs. But in case of an arrangement with the Left Front, the Congress bargaining power will be much more,” Banerjee added.

Political commentator Sabyasachi Bandopadhay feels that the alliance equations for UPA-I in 2004, UPA-II in 2009 and the proposed UPA-III for 2024 are totally different in the West Bengal perspective.

According to him, in 2004 West Bengal witnessed a three-cornered battle between the BJP-Trinamool Congress alliance, the Left Front and the Congress. “However, despite contesting separately both the Congress and Left Front leadership had a clandestine understanding. CPI(M) leaders like the current party general secretary Sitaram Yechury had been appealing to the people to vote for the Congress where the CPI(M) was not in a position to combat the BJP, similar reciprocity was shown by top Congress leaders like the late Pranab Mukherjee,” Bandopadhyay pointed out.

The alliance equation was again different as per the West Bengal perspective in 2009. “That year there was again a four- cornered electoral battle in the state between the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance, Left Front and BJP. That election marked the end of red supremacy in West Bengal which finally ended with the collapse of the 34-year Left Front rule in the state in the 2011 assembly polls,” Bandopadhyay stated.

Now in 2024, Bandopadhay said, as per indications there will be a three-cornered battle between the Trinamool Congress, BJP and the Congress-Left Front alliance. “Now it is to be seen whether the BJP or the alliance emerges as the game-changer in the state,” he added.

Political analyst Amal Sarkar feels that in case of a Congress- Left Front alliance the possibilities of gaining are more for the Congress rather than the Left Front. “The CPI(M) or Left Front is an extremely regimented force. So is its continuing dedicated vote bank, who has been voting for the red force even in its worst times. So it will be easier for the Left Front to mobilize their traditional voters behind a Congress candidate as part of an alliance formula. But I do not think that the Congress can achieve the same mobilization of their traditional voters behind the Left Front. The Sagardighi bypoll result was in a way a clear signal to the Trinamool Congress that if the dedicated minority vote bank can help it to tide over the massive BJP wave in 2021, the same voters can show the state’s ruling party the exit door,” Sarkar added.

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