In West Bengal the Lefts were the main political foe of Congress during ‘60s. The tide turned in 1967 and the United Front came to power. The United Front consisted of various types of leftist parties as well as the rebel Congress leader Ajay Mukherjee.
Mr. Mukherjee had formed his own party ‘Bangla Congress’ after the split from Congress, and led United Front. Pranab Mukherjee was a ‘young Turk’ in Mr. Mukherjee’s party then. Many thought even today, if Joyti Basu and his party couldn’t make Ajaybabu a scapegoat, may be CPM never emerged as a political force.
However, all was not so smooth for the United Front (courtesy CPM) and their short term political spring ended in 1972 Assembly polls as Congress emerged victorious and Siddhartha Shankar Roy became the Chief Minister. The fall of the United Front and its disintegration has been attributed to their (again read CPM) over-aggressive attitude by many.
Anti-Indira movement led by Jayprakash Narayan had imparted steam in the Left Front’s poll efforts and riding JP tide and anti-Congress sentiment the party had come to the power in 1977.
Initially, the Leftists have planned to fight the polls in alliance with Prafulla Sen’s party and seat sharing was also discussed, but Mr. Sen’s arrogance and the failure to obtain a consensus sounded the death knell for the alliance.
Prafulla Sen, a Gandhian Congress leader had shun the party and joined JP’s movement under the banner of Janata dal. Left Front came to power and after that ruled Bengal for 34 years before being dethroned through free and fair election process. In 2011, Mamata Banerjee led TMC came to power.
The twist is that Mamata Banerjee too was a rebel Congress leader and floated TMC after breaking away from the party.
Adhir Chowdhury led Congress in West Bengal can be termed as ‘Old Congress’ and the TMC likewise can also be dunned as ‘New Congress’ with Mamata in forefront.
The last Lok Sabha polls have clearly highlighted the severe plight of Congress and the party has literally been fighting for existence in this state. The party has existed only on a few hoarding here and there and Adhir Chowdhury is just howling and growling like a toothless tiger.
The grass root level workers of Congress had either shifted allegiance or went into slumber. The party has been reduced to be a mere gathering of ‘netas’ with each prophesying his or her own agenda.
Congress has eyed the Assembly polls 2016 as a point to regain its lost ground which seems quite tough. In a bid to thwart TMC, the party has joined hands with CPM and other Left parties once considered as arch rival of INC.
On the other hand, CPM still has some vote percentage in the state though not at all enough to challenge TMC alone. A fraction of the Left voters had moved to BJP during the Lok Sabha polls riding the Modi tide, but have returned now. So, the most feasible option for both Congress and CPM is to join hands against a common foe.
Despite much speculation and hype about the Congress-Left alliance, the prospect is not at all rosy. The coalition has faced many a bump in seat sharing and other calculations towards poll campaign all of their business now. For instance, Adhir Chowdhury will not be pleased to hand over his strong hold Murshidabad to CPM. On the contrary, ensuing inner squabbles of the oppositions may clear the path for TMC to win smoothly again.
The writer is the ex-Excutive Editor of the Bengali daily “Bartaman” and the ex-Associated Editor of the Bengali daily “Sambad Pratidin”