Mamata Sets Terms for Opposition Alliance; No Peace with Congress, Left Likely

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KOLKATA — Despite the grand opposition meeting in Patna last month which brought West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechuri on the same platform, hardly anyone has any illusions that the Patna conclave will bring the Trinamool Congress, Left Front and the Congress closer against the BJP in West Bengal for the Lok Sabha polls.

Now with the results of the three-tier panchayat polls in the state out with the Trinamool Congress getting a thumping majority in all three tiers, even the smallest possibility of the state’s ruling party softening its stand towards the Congress for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls seems out of the question.
 
Already the Trinamool Congress’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee has given a subtle hint on this count while ridiculing the slogan of “No vote to Mamata” coined by the Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal assembly Suvendu Adhikari.. “The opposition call for ‘No Vote to Mamata’ has turned into ‘Now vote for Mamata’ in the rural civic body polls,” he said. Banerjee also claimed that the sweeping mandate in the civic polls has paved the way for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.  
 
Even Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, after the results were announced, sent a strong message to the Congress. “There is a discussion on an alliance at the national level. So everyone should think before what they say. If you abuse me here, I cannot worship you there. I will reciprocate if you also give me due respect,” she said.
 
From the comments, political observers in West Bengal feel that the signal is clear that the Trinamool will go it alone in West Bengal in 2024 as well. According to them, there could be some post-poll arrangement between the opposition parties with the Trinamool, Congress and the CPI(M) as parties to it depending on the results of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. But any pre-poll understanding which means a seat-sharing agreement in West Bengal between the Trinamool Congress, Left Front and the Congress is out of the question.
 
In fact, Mamata Banerjee has said that in West Bengal there is no question of backing the Congress because of the latter’s understanding with the CPI(M) in the state. State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has claimed that in West Bengal, the Congress and the BJP are equal political opponents.
 
Political observers feel that in such a situation the only remote possibility of a pre-poll understanding between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress can be there if the Congress’s high command in New Delhi forces such an understanding on the state unit of the party. But even the possibility, feel observers, is remote since that would mean that the Congress will lose whatever little popularity it retains in certain pockets of West Bengal. “In that case there will be a mass exodus from the Congress to the BJP and ultimately the saffron camp will gain out of it, said a city-based political observer.
 
Logically, too, any pre-poll understanding between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress does not sound beneficial for either of the two parties.
 
Mamata Banerjee’s aim is to gain the maximum numerical presence in the Lower House of Parliament and she is quite aware that West Bengal is the only state that will provide it to her. Precisely that is why since the time she started her dialogue with other regional parties, she has been insisting on the choice of the opposition leader only after the polls. So, from the point of view of the Trinamool Congress this is the principal barrier to an amicable understanding with the Congress.
 
Similarly, from the Congress’s point of view, especially the party’s West Bengal unit, an amicable understanding with the Trinamool Congress will not be an easy task since in that case the Congress’s existing understanding with the Left Front will receive a setback. At the same time, in a bargain with the CPI(M),  the Congress will be able to contest on many more seats in the state than what it can get in a similar bargain with the Trinamool Congress. — IANS

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