The West Bengal State Legislative elections, which are scheduled to commence from March 27, have become the battleground of political contradictions. While the upcoming polls are expected to be a tough contest between the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is a case of political survival for the grand-old Congress party.
In a bid to turn around its political fortunes, the Congress has forged an alliance with its once arch-rival Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Islamist Abbas Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front (ISF). The grand old party hopes to strengthen its hold over the Muslim vote bank and save its face in the upcoming polls. While chances of the Congress party are slim to none in the elections, the party is now being shunted out by its allies in other States.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), which fought alongside the Congress in Jharkhand Vidhan Sabha polls of 2019, have decided to support Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) instead of its own ally. Although Congress and JMM run the coalition government in Jharkhand, JMM leader Hemant Soren informed that his party would not contest the polls in West Bengal. He instead extended his full support to TMC so that BJP could be stopped from coming to power.
It must be mentioned that Mamata Banerjee had earlier requested Hemant Soren to campaign for her party so that the ‘communal forces’ could be defeated in the State. Soren, the incumbent CM of Jharkhand, yields influence over the workforce from Jharkhand who are employed in Bengal’s tea gardens. But, instead of vouching for its own ally, JMM realised that the Congress party lacks the potential to stop the BJP in the State.
Besides JMM, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has also snubbed the Congress ahead of West Bengal polls. It must be mentioned that the two parties are part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, a coalition involving the Shiv Sena. Even the Sena, which had forged an alliance with the Congress after betraying its ally BJP post-elections, also seemed to have no hopes from the grand old party.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut had extended his party’s support to the TMC and decided against contesting elections in West Bengal. Hailing Mamata Banerjee as a ‘real tigress’, he claimed that the TMC camp was being hounded using money, muscle and media power. He also took to Twitter to claim that the Vidhan Sabha polls are a fight between the TMC and everyone else.
Justifying the party’s position to support TMC, Raut commented, “All ‘M’s – Money, Muscle and Media are being used against ‘Mamata Didi’. Hence, Shivsena has decided not to Contest West Bengal polls & stand in solidarity with her. We wish Mamata Didi a ‘roaring’ success, ‘cos we believe She is the real Bengal Tigress.”
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), an ally of the Congress in Bihar’s Mahagathbandhan and Jharkhand’s UPA government, had also backed TMC earlier this month. After meeting Mamata Banerjee, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said, “This is a battle for values. Laluji ka nirnay hai Mamataji ko full support karna hai (Laluji has decided that we should fully support Mamata ji). We will stand by her wherever we can. This is a larger fight to stop communal forces from dividing our nation.”
He further added, “Bengal has a lot of Hindi-speaking people from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. I would appeal to everyone to back Mamata Didi with all our strength to ensure her win. We support her in her fight for Bengal’s language, culture, literature.” Even Samajwadi leader Akhilesh Yadav has voiced his support for the TMC. While SP and RJD have been the erstwhile allies of the Left front, they have ditched both the Left-Congress coalition to stop the BJP.
It is ironical to witness that the Congress, which hopes to turn its fortunes in West Bengal, is facing abandonment by its allies from other States. While Congress has decided to forge an alliance with the Left in West Bengal, it is fighting the same party in the State of Kerala at the same time. Political opportunism is not new to Indian politics but the glaring ideological contradictions continue to diminish the grand old party’s electoral prospects.