The split of the Congress-Trinamool Congress (TMC) alliance in West Bengal, which followed the TMC withdrawing support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre, has led to a shift in the state’s political spectrum.
Since the TMC’s resounding victory in Bengal in May 2011, the Left has been the principal Opposition party in the state. However, it is likely that position would now be taken by the Congress, which has 42 seats in the state assembly.
The Left Front alliance has 62 seats in the state assembly and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or the CPM, is the alliance’s largest party. However, on its own, the CPM has only 38 seats, four less than the Congress.
After being voted out of power, the Left Front had been relegated to the sidelines. However, now, it stands to gain if votes are split between the Congress and the TMC. In the last elections, the TMC-Congress alliance had enjoyed a share of about 50 per cent of the votes, with TMC alone accounting for a 35 per cent share.
Now, the Left has already launched an offensive on the Panchayat polls front. On October 1, while TMC chief Mamata Banerjee was holding a protest rally in Delhi against the Centre’s economic policies, Kolkata was brought to a standstill, owing to a massive rally by Left parties, in which it highlighted the failures of the TMC government in the state.
In the run-up to the crucial Panchayat elections in West Bengal next year, electoral battle lines have been drawn. A relieved Congress party in the state is gearing up for an all-out offensive against the TMC. Speaking to Business Standard, senior Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury said, “Now, the Congress has rightly got an opportunity to assert itself in Bengal. We will work towards exploding the ‘myth’ that is Mamata Banerjee, and showcase her failures…Congress workers at the grassroots had been demoralised for long. We had to play second fiddle to the Trinamool Congress, even as they lost no opportunity in humiliating us. In a way, this split has helped in the emergence of the Congress as a force in the run-up to 2014.” The Congress plans to capitalise on Mamata Banerjee’s failure in fulfilling her election promises—generating employment and ensuring development and better living conditions.
Till now, though Congress leaders in West Bengal were desperate to hit out at the TMC in the state, they were asked to “go slow” by the Congress leadership at the Centre, as the TMC was the second-largest ally in the UPA government, said a Congress leader in the state. “Now, that compulsion no longer exists, and nothing can stop us from publicly attacking Mamata. She will soon find the Congress has become a liability for her,” he added.
Both the Left and the Congress are taking heart from the fact that despite Banerjee seeking early Panchayat elections in the state (in January 2013, against May), the state election commission has decided against it.