Congress, Left Front in Bengal join forces for Assembly byelections

Published : October 31, 2019 19:03 IST

Left Front chairman Biman Bose (right), CPI(M) State secretary Surjyakanta Mishra and West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Somen Mitra at an exhibition of photographs on Mahatma Gandhi, in Kolkata on September 30. Photo: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI

Old political adversaries, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress, have turned friends in West Bengal as they join forces to take on the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming byelections for three Assembly seats in the State.

In a joint press conference, both parties announced that for the byelections in Karimpur (Nadia district), Kharagpur Sadar (Pashchim Medinipur) and Kaliaganj (Uttar Dinajpur), the CPI(M)-led Left Front would contest only in Karimpur and would support Congress candidates in the other two seats.

Left Front chairman and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Biman Bose explained that the understanding on seats between the Left and the Congress was meant to “maximise” the consolidation of votes against the ruling Trinamool and the BJP. “We appeal to those who are against the Trinamool and the BJP to vote for the CPI(M) and the Congress. Our job is to maximise votes against the Trinamool and the BJP in all three seats. To fulfill this objective, we decided to field one candidate and support the Congress in the other seats,” said Bose.

While the Karimpur Assembly seat had been won by the CPI(M) from 1977 to 2016, the party has never won the Kharagpur Sadar seat and managed to win Kalaganj only three times in the last 42 years. The latter two seats have been traditional Congress bastions.

While the Trinamool and the BJP are running neck-and-neck in the political race for power in the 2021 Assembly election, for the Left and the Congress it has become an issue of survival. With both parties in danger of losing their political relevance in the State, this new step has been perceived as a last-ditch effort to reverse their political fortunes.

The recently concluded Lok Sabha election saw both the CPI(M) and the Congress hitting their lowest point in the last four decades. The Congress lost its traditional bastions of Malda, Murshidabad and Uttar Dinajpur, and its vote share dipped from 9.58 per cent in 2014 to around 5.6 per cent. The CPI(M)’s vote share plummeted from 22.9 per cent in 2009 to 6.28 per cent. The overall percentage of the Left Front fell to 7.6 per cent. The Left’s loss turned out be the BJP’s gain as the bulk of the anti-Trinamool votes went to the BJP.

Speaking on the renewed “friendship” between the Left and the Congress, West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Somen Mitra said, “This is only the beginning. We have decided to go together against the Trinamool and the BJP till we achieve our aim.”

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