Cracks in Left Front over proposed ‘adjustment’ with Congress

Cracks seem to have emerged in the four-decade-old CPI(M)-led Left Front, with a section of its leaders advocating “adjustment” with the Congress in West Bengal while their allies are opposed to the idea.

Miffed over the CPI(M)’s growing affinity with the Congress, once its arch-rival, allies such as the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) have expressed reservations over “any understanding” with the grand old party.

The AIFB and the CPI have even threatened to quit the Front if the CPI(M) went ahead with the Congress for the 2019 general election.

“We have told the CPI(M) clearly that we will walk out of the Front if there is an alliance or understanding with the Congress. We are opposed to both the Congress and the BJP. For us, both represent the ruling class,” AIFB state secretary Naren Chatterjee told PTI.

“In the 2016 assembly polls, when the CPI(M) entered into a seat-sharing adjustment with the Congress, we suffered badly. The adjustment has been disastrous for us and beneficial for the Congress,” Chatterjee said.

The nine-party-strong Left Front, which was in power in West Bengal for 34 years between 1977 and 2011, comprises CPI(M), RSP, CPI and Forward Bloc as its major partners.

A section of West Bengal Congress unit has shown inclination to forge a tie-up with Left parties for defeating the BJP in 2019.

The Left Front enjoys considerable support in West Bengal. In 2016, the CPI(M) had secured 19.8 per cent votes, CPI bagged 1.5 per cent, RSP 1.7 per cent and AIFB 2.8 per cent.

According to senior Left Front leaders, the RSP, the FB and the CPI had opposed the idea of forming a coalition with the Congress, even before the 2016 Assembly polls.

It was at the insistence of a section of CPI(M) leaders, who had floated the idea of “people’s alliance”, that the Front partners gave in to the proposal, they said.

The CPI, which doesn’t have any reservation in entering into an electoral understanding with the Congress in other states, said the political situation in Bengal is “totally different” and any understanding with the grand old party here would prove ‘fatal’ for both the CPI(M) and other Left Front partners.

“From our previous experience we can say that the Congress had failed to transfer its votes to the Left in case of an adjustment. It was proved in 2016 assembly polls as well as the recent Maheshtala bypoll,” CPI state secretary Swapan Banerjee said.

The LF-Congress combine in 2016 had failed to put up a creditable performance against Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress as it won only 76 seats in the 294-member-strong state assembly.

The Left Front, which had won just 32 seats, lost its position as the ‘main opposition party’ to the Congress, which bagged 44 seats.

The RSP went a step ahead, saying that the Left Front was not a “personal property” of the CPI(M).

“Although time is not ripe to comment on the issue of adjustment, we feel that the Left Front should fight on its own to regain its lost ground,” RSP state secretary Kshiti Goswami told PTI.

When contacted, several top CPI(M) leaders declined to comment on the issue and said it was too early to say anything on such matters.

“We have always advocated a strong Left Front. We don’t want to talk about this matter as of now. Let time come, everything can be sorted through discussions,” said a senior CPI(M) leader.

The CPI(M) in its last party Congress at Hyderabad in April had adopted a political line, which stated that the party will not forge a political alliance with the Congress, but might strike an “understanding” inside and outside Parliament to defeat “communal forces” in the country.

State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury, when asked about his opinion on the issue, refused to comment on “internal matters” of the Left Front.

He, however, quipped that most of the “allies of Left Front are dependent on the CPI(M)” for winning elections.

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