As TMC-BJP faceoff continues, CPI (M) eyes regaining lost ground in Bengal

With Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters facing off on the streets and the body count in poll-related violence rising, politics in Bengal seems to be going through a churning process.

Though almost completely vanquished, Left parties, especially the Communist Party of India (Marxist), are eyeing and trying to recapture lost ground by opening or occupying old offices that were either shut down by the Marxists under duress, or forcefully taken over by TMC workers after 2011. The CPI(M) has around 1,000 offices across Bengal. Combined with those of frontal organisations, the number is more than 3000. Many of these stopped functioning after 2011.

In the interim, the CPI(M) has reopened around 70 party offices across Bengal.

Also read: Left Front voters ensured BJP’s victory in Bengal, says Trinamool Congress

This has not gone down well with Bengal’s ruling party with TMC workers alleging that BJP is repaying the Marxists, for helping the saffron party win 18 of the state’s 42 seats.

“BJP and CPI(M) and helping each other in every district,” minister and TMC’s North 24 Parganas district unit president, Jyoti Priyo Mallick said.

The Marxists deny that charge.

“BJP did not help us reoccupy offices. Our men are taking over on their own strength, no matter how small the number may be at this time,” CPI(M) state secretariat member Rabin Deb said.

“After CPI(M) came to power in Bengal in 1977, some Congress offices were shut down, or taken over by Left cadres. But the CPI(M) never throttled the opposition the way TMC did. During the Left regime, the Congress held on to several Lok Sabha, assembly, civic body and panchayat seats. CPI(M) is recapturing its party offices, because a void has been created,” said columnist and political commentator, Suvashis Maitra.

The BJP won seven Lok Sabha seats out of eight in north Bengal and gained substantially in the western districts, while 39 of the 40 Left candidates, most of whom were from CPI(M), lost their deposits.

With no seat and only 7.46 % vote share, CPI(M) and its partners recorded their worst show in Bengal in this election. While the Left lost a huge chunk of the 29.95 % vote share recorded in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in Bengal, BJP’s vote share soared to 40.25 % against TMC’s 43.28 % and 5.61 % of the Congress.

Left leaders say that like the BJP and TMC, they too have to launch fresh political initiatives to save their party offices and ensure their survival till the 2021 assembly polls.

Also read: On hearing ‘Jai Shri Ram’, Mamata Banerjee loses cool and yells at protesters

“By trying to impose a ban on the Jai Sri Ram slogan and engaging in clashes, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee is only making BJP stronger. These clashes are harming Bengal. Our struggle on the ground is quite different. It is for the working class,” CPI(M)’s Jadavpur MLA and leader of the Left Front in Bengal Assembly, Sujan Chakraborty said.

Bengal BJP president and Midnapore MP, Dilip Ghosh said the TMC’s bullying tactics failed where opponents stood their ground.

“Violence is not desired. But poll results show that those who could fight back TMC’s muscle power, our Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh for example, wrested seats. We lost where this resistance could not be organised,” Ghosh, said.

During its campaign, the CPI(M) announced that BJP should be defeated to save India, while the TMC should be thwarted to save Bengal. However, during the polls, CPI(M) leaders at the grassroots tacitly encouraged party workers and supporters to vote for BJP so that the TMC no longer remained a threat.

Political observers, however, feel that no matter how hard CPI(M) may try to penetrate areas where TMC workers are either abandoning their forts or joining the BJP, the communists may not make any difference in the 2021 Assembly elections.

“No matter how many offices it reoccupies, CPI(M) is unlikely to gain in the 2021 Assembly election because the voting pattern in the Lok Sabha polls make it apparent that the concept of captive voters has become redundant in Bengal. People in the state have started following the people of Kerala and Uttar Pradesh who don’t vote for one party consistently,” said Maitra.

First Published:
Jun 01, 2019 19:12 IST

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