Five issues plaguing the Left-Cong alliance in WB

Five issues plaguing the Left-Cong alliance in WB

With the bitter experience of rushing into a hastily-formed alliance in the Assembly election in 2016, the CPM-led Left Front and the Congress were keen on finalising the seat sharing deal for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

But with the way talks between the two sides have gone so far, having a smoothly functioning alliance seems to be a far off possibility.

The inconclusive ending of two crucial meetings, that of the CPM state committee and the one between the CPM and Congress leaders on Thursday, brought forward five key issues plaguing the Left-Congress alliance.

First, negotiations between the two sides have come to a grinding halt over the Raiganj and Murshidabad Lok Sabha seats.

The CPM leadership, in their state committee meeting on Thursday, decided that talks with the Congress can only progress if the party does not stake any claim to the two seats which the CPM won in the last Lok Sabha elections in Bengal.

CPM sources told DH that during the meeting, two contradicting opinions were voiced by the state committee members.

"While a section of them argued that keeping the current political scenario of Bengal in mind, the party should be flexible with regard to seat-sharing with the Congress, another section argued that no compromise should be made regarding Raiganj and Murshidabad Lok Sabha seats," a source said.

However, CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra made it clear the party will field candidates in the two seats at any cost. 
Congress also is keen on fielding candidates in these two seats. The Bengal Congress leadership argued that the party should contest in the Raiganj Lok Sabha seats in North Dinajpur district because in the last Lok Sabha elections, the Congress candidate Deepa Dasmunshi lost by a thin margin of 1634 votes to CPM's Md Salim.

As for the Murshidabad seat in Murshidabad district, Congress said the CPM should leave the seat to it as the Murshidabad district has been traditionally a Congress bastion.

The second hurdle in the Left-Congress alliance is the objections raised by key Left Front constituents CPI, Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) against tie-up with Congress.

After much persuasion by CPM leaders, the CPI and the RSP have softened their stand to some extent, the Forward Bloc has made it clear that they will not leave any of the three Lok Sabha seats — Barasat (in North 24 Paraganas district), Cooch Behar (in Cooch Behar district) and Purulia (in Purulia district) — where they usually contest to the Congress.

The third issue plaguing the proposed alliance is that while the CPM wants it to be only a seat-sharing arrangement limited to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Congress is keen on making it a long-term alliance, which will continue at least till the next Assembly elections in 2021.

Recent instances of the Congress High Command's direct expression of support for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also thrown a spanner into the formation of the alliance.

The Congress High Command's action of extending support for Banerjee for her United India Rally and her dharna against the CBI has not only put the state Congress in a spot but considerably annoyed the CPM.

The fifth and final issue that may ruin the electoral prospect of the alliance altogether is the delay in finalising it.

Both sides are aware of the results of getting into a last-minute alliance and the bitter experience of being trounced by the TMC in the 2016 Assembly elections still haunts them.

With very little time left, and with only pointless meeting conducted so far, the CPM and Congress state leaders now have the uphill task of ironing out the difference with each other and also within their parties.