Influential Bengal cleric Abbas Siddiqui takes the stage at Left-Congress Kolkata rally, announces support of his ISF to Left Front in election

Published : February 28, 2021 21:15 IST

The Congress-Left Front and ISF rally at the Bridgade Parade ground on February 28. Photo: COURTESY GANASHAKTI

In a political development that will have a direct bearing on the Assembly election, the influential Islamist leader Abbas Siddiqui shared the dais with leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front and the Congress at a mega rally at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata on February 28 and announced his support to Left candidates in the election. He said talks with the Congress were still on. Addressing the massive gathering, which included a large number of supporters of the Indian Secular Front (ISF), Siddiqui’s newly formed party, the charismatic cleric said that the alliance would “reduce Mamata Banerjee’s party to zero”.

“The Left, understanding the mood of the people, agreed to most of our terms and so I will tell my followers… to forget the past history and extend support wherever there is a Left candidate, so we can oust the BJP and the BJP government’s team mate, Trinamool, from Bengal,” said Siddiqui. By his own admission, the Left Front has agreed to set aside 30 seats for the ISF. However, he made it clear that he had not come to any political agreement with the Congress yet. “You may wonder why I did not mention the Congress’ name when I pledged my support to the Left. I came here to stake my claim not to appease anybody…. If somebody wants to be my friend, the door is open and in the coming elections Siddiqui will fight for them, I promise that,” he said. Later, after the rally, the CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Mohammed Salim said that the Left was trying to smoothen out the relationship.

Lashing out at both the Trinamool and the BJP, SIddiqui said, “Today Mamata has taken away the liberty of the people of Bengal, she has snatched away the rights of women.” He said that every time dark forces tried to spread their influence in Bengal, the people of the State had risen together to thwart the attempt. “Bengal shattered the black hand of the British raj, and today we must pledge to destroy the black hand of the BJP,” said Siddiqui.

The formation of this new alliance, referred to as ‘Sanjukta Morcha’ is a cause for concern for both the Trinamool and the BJP. The saffron party’s rise in the State has been concomitant with the erosion of the Left’s support base. With the Left showing signs of revival, there is a possibility of those supporters returning to the Left fold. According to a CPI(M) source, “Most of them joined the BJP to protect themselves from Trinamool’s atrocities, not for any change of ideology. Today’s Brigade rally shows that many of our supporters are already returning to us and this will undoubtedly encourage more of them to come back and vote for the Left-Congress and other secular democratic forces.” Siddiqui’s teaming up with the Left-Congress threatens to split the minority votes. This is not good news for the Trinamool, which needs its Muslim support base intact to be able to defeat the BJP. Both the Trinamool and the BJP, however, dismissed any chances of success of the new alliance and both accused the Left-Congress of bowing to “communal forces”. Another interesting sight in the rally was the presence of a large number of young people, both from urban areas and from the suburbs and villages, which may indicate a shifting of the political preference of the younger generation. However, it remains to be seen how far the Left, the Congress and Siddiqui can make the alliance work, given their history of animosity.

This was the first time that the Left and the Congress shared the stage at a Brigade rally. Along with the top State leaders of the two parties, national leaders like CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI) D. Raja, senior Congress leader Jitin Prasada and the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Bhupesh Baghel were also present.

The call was for a rejection of the Trinamool in the State, and the BJP both in the State and at the Centre. Sitaram Yechury said, “Neither the extortionist government nor the communal government will do in Bengal. Bengal needs a pro-people government, and the coming election is a fight to establish just that.” Polit Bureau member and CPI(M) State secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said that the time had come to unite all the downtrodden and neglected people and through them bring about a change. West Bengal Pradesh Congress president and Leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, referring to the huge turnout, said, “This rally proves that the BJP and the Trinamool have been rejected by the people…. in the coming days neither of them will remain, the only force that will remain is the Sanjukta Morcha.”

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor