Kolkata, April 16 : Exuding confidence about the “tyrannical” Mamata Banerjee regime being ousted in the ongoing West Bengal assembly polls, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury says his party will join a new coalition government with the Left Front to be formed on the basis of a common minimum programme (CMP). (Read: Issue strict instruction to security forces to not fire at protestors: CPI(M))
However, a call on the coalition’s chief minister and whether he would be from the Congress or the LF will be taken “at an appropriate time”. Chowdhury – a Lok Sabha member and one of the chief architects of the Congress-LF tie-up – says the alliance between the traditional foes was a response to the people’s call for the opposition to unite and dethrone the “corrupt” Trinamool Congress and free Bengal from its “misrule”.
“There will be a common minimum programme and going by the response that we have got in the first phase, this alliance will come to power and the Congress will be a part of the government,” Chowdhury told IANS in an interview. Congress leaders Manas Bhunia and Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury have said CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra was the alliance’s chief ministerial candidate. But the Bengal Congress chief said the duo have spoken in their individual capacity.
“As of now, neither the Congress nor the LF has decided on the chief ministerial candidate. It will be decided at an appropriate time,” he said. Asked whether he was in the race, Chowdhury said: “I will abide by whatever our high command decides.” In 2011, the Congress had joined hands with the Trinamool to dethrone the Left to end its 34 years of uninterrupted rule in the state. But five years down the line, the entire equation has turned on its head.
“There is no denying the fact that under the Left’s 34-year rule, not only the people of Bengal but we too suffered atrocities.
“But If then we were faced with a wolf, this time we are up against a man-eater. The man-eater by the name of Trinamool has devoured democracy and law and order. If not ousted, it will finish off the entire state,” Chowdhury maintained.
Candid enough to admit that the Congress or the LF alone cannot dismantle the Trinamool, the parliamenarian said the alliance was the only viable alternative to the ruling party. “Much like in 2011, now too, it’s the people’s call for the opposition to unite and dethrone the ruling party. The Congress-LF alliance is the only grouping that can achieve that,” said Chowdhury.
The tie-up has come under attack from both the BJP and the Trinamool especially on account of the bitter rivalry between the Congress and the Left in Kerala. But Chowdhury asserted the alliance neither signifies any “existential crisis” nor an “opportunistic politics” of his party and the LF. “The alliance has become the biggest issue in the polls for our opponents and they are constantly attacking it. It’s a big indication of their discomfort. In the alliance, Mamata has already started to hear the death knell of her despotic regime,” Chowdhury said.
The coming together of the two forces has been far from smooth. Internal bickering and “heartburn” within both camps, the “friendly fights” in a number of constituencies, especially in the Congress bastion of Murshidabad, has often evoked angry reactions from Chowdhury himself. LF constituents, particularly the RSP and the CPI, had openly expressed their anguish, claiming their existence was being compromised for the sake of the tie-up.
“We were traditionally opposed to each other – both ideologically and politically. All differences cannot be wiped out overnight,” said Chowdhury who had earlier accused Left constituents – the All India Forward Bloc and the RSP – of “being bribed by the Trinamool to harm the alliance”.
Chowdhury also refused to read much into the “friendly fights”, saying several of these were “part of its electoral strategy”.
While LF chairman Biman Bose has said the arrangement with the Congress was not an alliance but an “electoral understanding”, an unfazed Chowdhury insisted it was a formal alliance and not just a mere arrangement to form a strong opposition.
“I won’t get into semantics, one may call it by whatever name, but for us it’s an alliance,” asserted Chowdhury, pointing to joint campaigns by the parties across constituencies.
While heavyweights from both the camps, including the likes of Mishra and Bhunia, have participated in joint campaigns, several Marxist leaders and candidates have shared the dais with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice president Rahul Gandhi during their election rallies in the state.