CPM okays ‘no-fight’ with Congress
CPM general-secretary Sitaram Yechury on Monday said the central committee of the party had approved an understanding with the Congress not to fight each other in the six seats the two parties hold in Bengal.
Sources said a meeting was likely to take place between Yechury and Congress president Rahul Gandhi later this week.
Yechury said at a press conference here that “a triangular fight in Bengal is better than a quadrangular fight’’.
According to him, the central committee that concluded its two-day meeting on electoral tactics on Monday cleared the proposal of “no mutual contest’’ in the six seats with an overwhelming majority.
While the CPM had bagged Raiganj and Murshidabad in the 2014 general elections, the Congress won from Malda North, Malda South, Behrampore and Jangipur.
Given that the Congress itself was keen on fighting at least one — Raiganj — of the two seats held by the CPM, Yechury was specifically asked about the shift in tactics, considering the general understanding that the Congress’s presence in the fray had helped the Left party in Raiganj in 2014.
“The ground reality has shifted since 2014,’’ Yechury said — an indication that the assessment in the CPM’s Bengal unit was that possible polarisation this time would require the two parties to pool resources to ensure a victory in Raiganj.
Earlier in the day, former Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury had met Rahul to give his assessment of ground realities. Sources said the Behrampore MP had told Rahul that the Congress had little presence outside Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur and had seen erosion in the base even in those three districts because of aggressive engineering of defections by the Trinamul Congress.
“Adhir told Rahul that Congress workers at the grassroots were in favour of a dignified alliance,” said a state Congress leader.
The sources said Chowdhury had made it clear to Rahul that there was no point in the Congress contesting alone everywhere in Bengal as it had the ability to put up a decent show in only six or seven seats.
They said Chowdhury had pointed out that the Left Front was willing for co-operation even in the absence of a pact to field no candidates in the four seats the Congress had won in 2014.
“Adhir told Rahul that what stands in the way of the alliance now is the Congress’s unwillingness to give up Raiganj and Murshidabad, which the Left had won in 2014. Adhir asked him to personally ensure that the understanding did not fall apart over two seats,” said the state Congress leader.
“Rahul assured Adhir that he would look into it,” he added.
However, others in the Congress state leadership said even a truck with the Left could yield little for the party in Bengal. “The only reason why the Left is still an option is almost total unwillingness by most Congress leaders to work with Mamata Banerjee, although that would ensure victories in some seats,” said the state leader.
Responding to the CPM central committee’s decision, the Bengal Congress issued a statement, saying it had started discussions with “great hope” on seat adjustment with the Left.
The statement said the CPM decision was duly noted.