The Congress is going full throttle against the Trinamool Congress to get the benefits of anti-incumbency in the state and is ready to partner with the Left, so that not a single anti-TMC, anti-BJP vote gets split. In fact, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has even given up his party’s claim on two traditional Congress seats, much against the wishes of his party workers
The central committee meeting of the CPI(M), for its part, has justified the tie-up, issuing a statement on March 4 that read: “In West Bengal, the central committee will adopt suitable tactics to ensure maximisation of the pooling of anti-BJP and anti-TMC votes. The CPI(M) proposes no mutual contest in the six sitting seats, currently held by the Congress (four) and the Left (two).
Of these six seats, two-Raigunje and Murshidabad-were a bone of contention for the two parties. Both the seats are known as Congress bastions and have returned Congress MPs in the past, with the exception of the 2014 Lok Sabha election. The Congress staked its claim to these seats because the margin of loss in 2014 was 1,600 votes in Raigunje, and Murshidabad is Congress MP Adhir Chowdhury’s stronghold. While the CPI(M) had a clear edge in Murshidabad with a lead of 18,000 votes, the party’s sitting MP in Raigunje, Mohammad Salim, was not ready to give up his constituency. Overruling objections by Bengal Congress leaders, Rahul Gandhi agreed to cede Raigunje and Murshidabad to the CPI(M)
Now, the question is will this alliance be able to make a dent in the TMC or the BJP following and vote shares? Going by the “electoral tactical understanding,” as CPI(M) secretary Sitaram Yechury chose to term it, in the 2016 assembly election, the combined vote share of the Left and the Congress was 38.6 per cent as against 44 per cent for the ruling TMC. In the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, the Left and the Congress together secured 39 per cent, even though they fought separately, as against the TMC’s vote share of 39.3 per cent
“At a time when there is anti-incumbency against the TMC and resentment against Narendra Modi, the Congress-Left combine stands to gain,” says Congress’s veteran leader Abdul Mannan