The geographically selective Congress-Left alliance is difficult to implement
The Congress-Left Front alliance for the Assembly election in West Bengal is notable for several reasons, though not unexpected. Both have been cooperating at the national level for several years now, and were partners in the recent Assembly election in Bihar. The CPI(ML), which was part of the ‘grand alliance’ in Bihar, is not part of the alliance in West Bengal. The Congress and the Left Front argue, and perhaps even believe, that the election will not be a straight contest between the AITMC led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the BJP. Both the Congress and the Left Front are staring at extinction in the State, caught in the crossfire of the intense battle between the BJP and the AITMC. The alliance is an effort to salvage what is left of their support base and consolidate their meagre resources. The downslide of the Left Front did not end with its ouster from power in 2011 after 34 years. Rising from the ashes of the Left Front was AITMC, but the shallowness of its politics was soon apparent. The BJP rose even more dramatically, winning more than 40% of the votes and 18 Lok Sabha seats in the State in 2019. An argument in support of the Congress-Left Front alliance is that those who rallied behind the BJP and the AITMC in recent years because they dislike the other more will have a new alternative now. However, that scenario of a return of voters and workers to the Congress and Left Front appears too optimistic.
More likely, the impact of the alliance will be restricted to constituencies that have a considerable Muslim population. A second claimant for the anti-BJP votes in around one-third of the total 294 constituencies could significantly aid the Hindutva party’s bid for power. The alliance leaders do not consider Ms. Banerjee any less an enemy than the BJP. An element of personal rivalry is evident, but the Congress and the Left Front may also be hoping to emerge as a viable anti-BJP platform in the State, following the eviction of Ms. Banerjee from power. At present, however, the alliance is more a sign of confusion than a strategy for resurgence for both the Congress and the Left Front. Cohabitation will not cure the structural and ideological disabilities of either or change the environmental factors. In fact, this alliance in West Bengal could aggravate the troubles for both in Kerala, where they will be principal opponents in the Assembly election. The BJP has made significant inroads in the State, which was evident in the recent local body elections. The geographically selective alliance of the Congress and the Left Front is difficult to implement on the ground, and might end up opening new avenues for the BJP.