The causes behind the miserable failure of CPM-Congress alliance are yet to be ascertained. Since the big ally CPM has received a major blow in terms of the assembly poll results in West Bengal, the leadership appears to be very much apprehensive of the party’s future in the state. In fact, this time Bengal has witnessed the worst-ever electoral performance of the Marxist party, as their number of seats reduced to 26 from 40, with a sharp decline in voting percentage in comparison with the assembly polls of 2011. Surprisingly, their ally Congress has increased their own number of seats from 42 to 44 with a vote share of 12.3%.
The CPM state committee is waiting for district unit reports before initiating the post-mortem of such a disastrous result. However, the primary investigation report suggests that due to several factors, the common people of Bengal couldn’t accept the alliance as the formidable alternative to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress during this assembly poll.
Firstly, the alliance was forged too late in the day, if the objective was to topple the Mamata Banerjee-led government in Bengal. When a new political force requires at least six to eight months to get prepared for the election, this alliance got less than two months.
Secondly, the CPM-Congress friendship on the eve of the assembly polls shouldn’t even be actually termed an alliance: rather, it should be dubbed just an electoral adjustment between two arch-rivals, which have minimal ideological coincidence.
The major drawback of the alliance was that it couldn’t project any specific agenda in the battlefield. The leaders of both the parties failed to make any commitment for the betterment of common people. Naturally, the CPM drivel of relentless criticism against the TMC supremo had no impact on peoples’ vote orientation.
Another point to be noted is that since the alliance was not the product of any pro-people movement, it appeared to voters to be an election-centric tie-up, based on opportunism only.
Ironically, the problem was almost the same inside CPM and Congress. Prakash Karat himself couldn’t accept his party’s decision wholeheartedly to go for an electoral tie up with Congress. Likewise, Kerala and Tripura state units of CPM strongly opposed the idea of cementing a relationship with the Congress. Similarly, some of the heavyweight Congress leaders from Bengal including Deepa Dasmunshi, Manas Bhunia initially raised their voice against the tie-up proposal from CPM, but under tremendous pressure from the high command, they conceded at last. Consequently, the alliance had to face a lack of coordination from both sides.
Moreover, a large section of Congress workers and supporters, even leaders, couldn’t trust their CPM counterparts due to some bitter experiences during the 34 years' Left regime in Bengal. The traditional Congress voters also expressed their reluctance to vote for the Marxists.
Most significantly, when CPM leaders were up in arms criticizing and maligning Mamata, they couldn’t justify their failure in socio-economic development and industrialization while they were ruling. Questions on their role as the ruling party in view of deteriorating law and order as well as increasing corruption, remained unanswered.
In addition, CPM had a harrowing time since a reasonable section of party comrades preferred to keep themselves aloof from political activities to avoid any controversy or threat against the backdrop of assembly polls. Particularly in rural areas, CPM faced a major exodus of its people to TMC, causing frustration and fear psychosis inside the party organization.
The most important question of the hour was why the Marxist party leadership had played a dubious role in Bengal and Kerala in the run up to the assembly polls?
Notably, the major partners in the Left front – including CPI, Forward Block, RSP – found no reason to accept Congress as their friends, which certainly had a negative impact on polls performance of the alliance.
Another interesting point, CPM and Congress lunched combined attacks on Mamata to grab power, but they failed to project anybody as their would-be Chief Minister, if they were to be voted to the power. Naturally, people of Bengal happened to be unwilling to welcome such a lethargic and cloudy political combination as an alternative to TMC, and this resulted in a big jolt for CPM.
Dr. Suryakanta Mishra, state secretary of CPM, who was believed to be the main architect of the alliance, argued, “We will have to accept our defeat first. Any defeat is defeat. But it must not be treated as retreat.” Incidentally, Suryakanta himself lost the game at his constituency Narayangarh.
Being asked about such a humiliating defeat of the Marxist party across the state, the state secretary asserted, “The Left’s strength remains intact in terms of percentage of votes polled in its favour.”
Interestingly, he didn’t rule out the possibility of a TMC-BJP tacit understanding with respect to number of seats to stall the alliance. Incidentally, BJP has bagged three seats. BJP's pathetic past performances in Bengal can be gauged from the fact that the current figure is considered to be the saffron brigade’s best-ever performance.
Answering a question on the relevance of the alliance, Dr. Mishra asserted that the relevance of the alliance couldn’t be lost in the present situation as the unity of Left democratic and secular forces was imperative all over the country. Being the chief architect of the alliance, the state secretary of CPM stressed the need for a deep assessment of the results.
Visibly upset with the Left-result, former state secretary of CPI Manju Majumdar alleged that the Left ideology was thrown to the winds since the alliance was forged without organizing a serious debate on this vital issue. He strongly believes, “The sole aim of the alliance was to capture the seats in the assembly polls at any cost and it was formalized without considering pros and cons.”
RSP state secretary, the outspoken Kshiti Goswami, raised the question, “Why at all did the CPM moot the idea of forging an alliance with the Congress?” According to Goswami, “It is now being widely felt inside CPM and other Left parties that the decision for the alliance was absolutely wrong.”
State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury confessed that the alliance was a bad idea. People couldn’t accept it. He stated, “Failure can’t be justified by lame excuses. We should take lessons from it.”
Meanwhile, blame games between CPM and Congress have already started as Suryakant Misra and Md Salim from CPM raised their fingers at the Congress for the frustrating results. From the opposite side, Adhir Chowdhury also advocated examining the role of CPM behind the failure.
Given the current results, the Bengal Left lobby may be isolated in the Left politburo and central committee, while the Kerala and Tripura units, that opposed the formation of alliance with Congress, will likely get to enjoy enhanced importance.
Secondly, state leaders including Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Suryakanta Mishra and others who advocated for alliance, are expected to face stormy party meetings for their failure. They may even be asked to step down in the near future. Apprehending sharp criticism from within the party, a state panel meeting has already been postponed at the state headquarters recently. According to the insiders, taking lessons from the unprecedented devastation, party general secretary Sitaram Yechury in the future may hesitate to consider any impractical proposal from Bengal leaders. Political analysts are now opining that since CPM is being reduced to a microscopic party in West Bengal, the top leaders will have to obey the commands of Congress leaders just to protect their entity. And in case of enhanced proximity between Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee under the changing political scenario in future, CPM might become completely marginalised and ignored in both Bengal and national level politics. The party will also have to tackle the serious manpower crisis facing it particularly in rural Bengal. And yes, they need to learn key points from the Mamata Banerjee victory juggernaut.
This time, Trinamool Congress has registered a tremendous growth in terms of seats and percentage of votes. It has bagged as many as 211 seats out of 294 seats in the state assembly; this is the first time that the state is witnessing such a brutal majority of a single party, which has secured approximately 46% of the vote share. In comparison with the assembly poll results in 2011, when the TMC-Congress combined force had toppled the CPM-led Left front government, TMC bagged altogether 184 seats, whereas this time Trinamool alone managed to secure 211 seats.
Mamata Banerjee’s charismatic leadership is believed to have played a vital role in overcoming all the hurdles on the way to success. She realized that her personal credibility and popularity can easily stop the ‘web of lies’ against her party and government. That’s why the Trinamool supremo started projecting herself as the only candidate from her party, which worked like magic in this crisis period.
Mamata believes in ground reality that prompted her to work for grassroots level people in the last five years. Being the Chief Minister, she underscored the need for bridging the gap between rural and urban Bengal by initiating a number of development projects.
Most of the rural blocks across the state have got new roads, water projects, Kishan Mandis, new school and college buildings with modern educational infrastructures, ITI, elevated rural and sub divisional hospitals including multi-super speciality hospitals with modern facilities.
The "rice-for-Rs.2-a=kilo" scheme helped Mamata touch the hearts of the weaker sections of rural and urban Bengal both. Her social projects including Kanyashri, Yuvashri, Sabujsathi, proved to be the motivation factor for the new generation. Restoring peace in Maoist-infested Jangalmohal and politically unstable Darjeeling, Mamata opened an era in public relations. Urban Bengal too, including twin Kolkata and Howrah, wore a new look during her first term as CM. In all, by virtue of her charisma and positive outlook, Mamata made the people get convinced that the idea of Mamata Banerjee had no alternative. Naturally, the Saradha-Narada scandal and flyover collapse debacle had no impact on the election results. She did it in one term. Sadly, CPM had so many years, yet they couldn't..
"Don’t Call It Mamata Magic, It Is People’s Magic!"
Despite many corruption charges against a section of your party-people, the voters of Bengal have blessed you again. Why?
Common people have rejected the attempts made by the opposition to mislead them. They couldn’t accept the way followed by the opposition parties to malign me in the run up to the election.
Do you think that all the allegations are unfounded?
In fact, it’s propaganda by a section of media. Bengal is a corruption-free state. Intelligent voters have rejected all the allegations. The game plan has been proven to be futile. Those who brought the baseless allegations against us should apologise immediately. People of Bengal can’t tolerate arrogance.
What should be the role of opposition in a democracy?
There must be a Laxman Rekha in politics. The leadership should know when and where to stop. The web of lies can’t be the way to grab power. See, we do believe in peace, but so many workers and supporters of our party have been killed in the last couple of months and years. Why? Who will give the answer? Raising voice against political rivals shouldn’t hit the decency [standards]. That is unhealthy for democracy.
Did you ever imagine such a landslide victory?
Why not? We always underline the need for the development of common people. We have been working sincerely for the last five years. Our party and government have trust on the work we have done. Naturally, the voters reciprocated. Now, Bengal is all set to welcome a strong, single-party government after as long as 49 years. Please don’t describe it as “Mamata Magic”; take it as People's Magic. Allow me to convey my gratitude to the people of Bengal.
How do you feel about the role of election commission?
We do believe in free and fair polls. I struggled for introducing voter identity cards with photographs to ensure this. I believe that during our regime, people have been able to at least exercise their voting rights freely. This time too, our state has experienced a peaceful election. But, in some cases I think, central forces have crossed their limits. There might be such instructions on them, but their role in some areas were not beyond doubt. In Bhowanipore, they allegedly discouraged a number of voters to go to the booth, while in Jadavpur, they reportedly motivated the voters to increase the voting rate.
Do you think that CPM-Congress alliance will give any political dividend to these two parties in the future?
Not at all. If character is lost, everything is lost. If ideology is lost, everything is lost. Once I was alone, but didn’t compromise. Surprisingly, this time CPM is noticed to have compromised with their ideology, which happens to be a great blunder for them. They have already suffered a major loss in Bengal. Congress also received a major blow and certainly they will have to face hard times in national politics for their wrong stepping in Bengal. Ask the leaders of CPM what’s the actual reason behind their dubious role in West Bengal and Kerala.
What should be your party’s stand towards BJP?
We have ideological differences with BJP. Therefore, we can’t support them. But, as far as the people's interest is concerned, our views must be positive. Trinamool Congress may consider issue-based support towards BJP.
After the overwhelming success in your state, the national political scene may demand your presence. Are you mentally prepared?
I love my country. I love my motherland.
After taking oath as the Chief Minister for the consecutive second term, what should be your first priority?
Socio-economic development. We must fulfil our commitments first. So, let us stand firmly behind the farmers, workers and students. The young generation will surely get oxygen by our developmental activities. Industrial growth is expected to acquire a new dimension. Minority development is obviously our priority, but there will be no discrimination in view of progress among majority or minority. Besides, electoral reforms will also get a berth in our agenda.