LS Polls: Cong, CPI(M) keen to assess ground situation

AFP file photo.

With an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the CPI(M) and the Congress, witnessing steady erosion in their support base, have initiated an assessment of the ground-level situation in West Bengal.

Facing a tough time in the state due to the "reign of terror and poaching of party leaders by the ruling TMC" and the BJP's emergence as the main opposition, the CPI(M) and the Congress hope that such an assessment would help them have a better understanding about their "ability to win", and the strength and weaknesses in all 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal.

In the recent panchayat polls and all the by-elections since the 2016 Assembly polls, Mamata Banerjee's TMC has emerged as the clear winner, but the BJP had pipped the Congress and the CPI(M) to become the main opposition in the state.

CPI(M) politburo member Hannah Mollah said all the state units, including West Bengal, have been asked to submit their organisational ground report at the next central committee meeting, following which a discussion would take place regarding the state-wise political strategy.

"All the state units have been asked to submit their organisational ground report, which also includes the seat-wise position. Then, we will discuss about preparing our strategy," Mollah told PTI.

According to a senior CPI(M) state committee leader, a meeting has been convened later this month to discuss various modalities, including the party's ability to win seats on its own, and prospects of an adjustment with the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls.

"Let us accept the fact that the situation in Bengal is not very conducive for us. We have to see which seats can be won if there is an adjustment with the Congress. After we discuss it, we will send the report to the central committee," he told PTI on condition of anonymity.

"We hope the situation will change, as people are fed up with the BJP government at the Centre and the TMC government in the state. People want a secular and a democratic alternative," CPI(M) state secretariat member Ashok Bhattacharya said.

The ground-level organisational report will be followed by a separate assessment of each and every Lok Sabha seat in the state, he said.

Out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, the Trinamool Congress currently has 34, the BJP has two, the Congress has four seats, and the CPI(M) has two.

In the 2009 general elections, the TMC had won 19 seats, the Congress six, the BJP one and the Left Front 15. The TMC-backed SUCI (Communist) candidate won one seat.

The Congress leadership, on the other hand, is taking inputs from its district base regarding the ground-level situation.

Inputs regarding the party's performance since 2014 till the last panchayat polls, the number of seats it was able to contest in the polls and the percentage of votes are being collated from each and every district, said a senior AICC leader.

Congress Lok Sabha MP and the party's observer in West Bengal Gaurav Gogoi himself has been visiting various districts of the state and talking to district leaders.

Asked about the situation in Bengal, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, "Our target is to retain the four seats that we currently have and increase the tally".

According to state Congress general secretary Omprakash Mishra, who has been a strong advocate of a Congress-CPI(M) alliance in West Bengal, if both the parties fight as a political front, then it is in a "comfortable position to win majority" of the seats.

Mishra said a Congress victory in the upcoming Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh state elections would generate a strong wave in favour of it in Bengal as well.

"If the Congress wins the elections in those three states, then the next Lok Sabha polls will be divided clearly between a Congress-led front and a BJP-led front. And in Bengal, both the Congress and CPI(M) would benefit out of it," he told PTI.

A report prepared by Mishra, on behalf of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC), was sent to the central leadership last month, recommending joining hands with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for the parliamentary election.

However, a section of Congress MPs and MLAs feel that aligning with the TMC would be the best way to win maximum number of seats in 2019.

According to Congress sources, the party is keen on fighting it alone or as an alliance partner with the CPI(M), as TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has clearly said her party wants to contest the next Lok Sabha polls alone, and win all the 42 seats in the state.

Earlier, she had said that in case of an all India anti-BJP opposition front, the party which is the most powerful against the BJP in a particular state should be allowed to fight the polls against the saffron brigade with the formula of 1:1.

"Which means in Bengal, she will fight alone against the BJP... Her theory of 1:1 is completely absurd and unrealistic," said a senior state Congress leader.

"Banerjee said at a recent rally that her party will fight alone, which means she is not keen on having an alliance. So, in that case, either we have to fight alone or in an alliance with the Left," he said.

The TMC has given a call to win all the 42 seats in the state, whereas the BJP has set a target of winning at least 22 seats in Bengal.

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LS Polls: Cong, CPI(M) keen to assess ground situation

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