The state CPM leadership has sent a directive to district-level office-bearers asking them to steer clear of any official or unofficial pact with the BJP in the panchayat polls scheduled for next year following an apparent realisation in the Left party that it cannot afford to lose its supporters to the saffron camp any more.
“The directions have been clearly spelt out.… No form of alliance with the BJP will be permitted in the panchayat polls,” Bengal CPM secretary Md Salim told The Telegraph.
According to Salim, decisions regarding the panchayat polls — such as selecting candidates or supporting some other party — are normally taken by the workers and leaders at the grassroots. While the process will remain the same this time as well, the decisions will be screened by the district committees and the state committee will intervene, if necessary, he said.
“We will lay down a series of guidelines. The area committees will have to take decisions conforming to those guidelines,” Salim added.
The last rural polls had seen unofficial understanding between the Left and the BJP at the grassroots in several parts of Bengal.
A source in the CPM in Nadia district said the coming together of the foot soldiers of the two parties — ideological enemies otherwise — was a mere survival strategy to take on the might of the Trinamul Congress that has established a near hegemony across rural Bengal.
“There was nothing official about it, but our top leaders knew about the ground-level deals that had two main objectives,” said the source.
The first objective, he explained, was a defensive strategy as the foremost aim was to save the cadres from the Trinamul machinery by aligning with the BJP that runs the central government.
A desperate attempt to deal a blow to Trinamul by joining hands with the BJP in some areas — albeit a temporary strategy to gain ground in rural Bengal — was the second objective, he added.
For instance, in Nadia’s Karimpur-Ranaghat area, the BJP and the CPM had organised a joint protest rally right ahead of the panchayat polls in 2018. The two parties had lent support to each other during the polls and the bonhomie continued even afterwards.
The fact that the lower-level truck didn’t yield any political dividends for the CPM was felt in the panchayat polls as the BJP emerged as the Number Two party by making significant inroads into villages across Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Jhargram and Purulia districts and in parts of West Midnapore and even Birbhum districts.
“The hypothesis that let’s first take on Trinamul by joining hands with the BJP and we can later defeat the BJP was trashed as it became clear that our supporters were deserting us permanently to join the BJP,” said a CPM source in Burdwan, recalling the discussions in the party after the Left had failed to bag a single seat in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.
A section in the CPM thinks as the past few months saw impressive turnouts at party programmes, it ought to avoid any kind of understanding with the BJP.
There is also a perception that the CPM's performance, especially by the student and the youth wings, in organising protests against the school recruitment scams has increased the party’s acceptability and the time has come to reap the political benefits in the rural polls.