The chances of the Left Front and Congress entering into an alliance in West Bengal for the Lok Sabha elections is almost nil. It seems that the state is heading for a four-way contest between the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the CPI(M)-led Left Front, Congress and BJP.
The political scenario is most likely to benefit the Trinamool Congress (TMC). Although the BJP may make some gains from the fall out between the Left Front and Congress, it is likely to be overshadowed by the TMC.
By going solo in the Lok Sabha elections in Bengal, both the Left Front and Congress have an uphill task ahead of them and will struggle to retain the seats which they won in 2014.
While the CPI(M) got two seats in the last Lok Sabha elections, Congress got four and BJP got two seats. TMC towered over the rest with 34 seats.
First, let us consider how the TMC is going to benefit if the Left Front and Congress contest the general elections on their own strength.
Contrary to the general expectation that TMC may struggle to return to power for the second time in the 2016 Assembly elections, the party trounced the Left-Congress combo and returned to power with a larger tally.
If the results of the 2016 state elections are taken into consideration, we see that the TMC maintained a comfortable lead in 36 Lok Sabha seats while the Left-Congress combo was able to get a lead only in five Lok Sabha seats: Raiganj, Malda North, Malda South, Jangipur and Baharampur.
The BJP was not able to get a lead in any of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal. Another deciding factor in the upcoming contest will be the Muslim vote.
It is nearly impossible for any political party in West Bengal to achieve electoral success without gaining the support of the nearly 28% Muslim population of the state.
With the Left front and Congress deciding to go it alone, the TMC may be able to further consolidate the Muslim votes in its favour.
As for the BJP, although the party is likely to gain if it can eat into the vote base of the Left Front, it is rather unlikely that the party will get support of Muslim voters who have backed the TMC since 2011.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when the Left Front and Congress did not have an alliance, the TMC got 39.05% of votes, CPI(M) got 29.71% votes, Congress got 9.58% and BJP got 16.80% of votes.
In the 2016 assembly elections, despite the Left-Congress alliance, TMC got about 45% of votes polled, followed by the Left-Congress combo (40%) and the BJP (10%).
If the results of 2014 and 2016 are anything to go by, then the TMC looks likely to get a huge share of the votes. If the Left Front and Congress seat-sharing agreement continues to remain at an impasse, then the TMC’s vote share is likely to go up further.
As for BJP, its fortune hinges on whether it can eat into the vote base of the Left Front and Congress, as it is rather unlikely that the saffron party will be able to erode TMC’s vote bank.