CPI(M) fields candidate against Mamata

By Shiv Sahay Singh

A day after the Congress decided not to field a candidate against West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee in the Bhabanipur Assembly bypoll, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Wednesday announced its candidate, Shrijeeb Biswas, a 31-year-old lawyer at Alipore Court, for the seat.

Since the Congress will stay away from campaign, the candidate will not campaign under the banner of Samyukt Morcha, a front created before the Assembly polls with the Left Front, Congress and Indian Secular Front in it.

The Congress’s decision to extend an olive branch to Ms. Banerjee will have far implications on the State politics. While it has strained the Left-Congress relationship, a section of Congress leaders feels that the party walking away from contest against the Trinamool Congress will further erode its support base in the State.

“It might be premature to say that developments have dented the alliance beyond repair,” CPI(M) leader Rabin Deb said. A section of Congress leaders are disillusioned with the decision and feel that it will impact the electoral alliance with Left parties that has been going on since 2016.

“More than 30 of our MLAs have been poached by the Trinamool Congress. Every municipality and gram panchayat where the Congress was in power was taken away using defections and force. Now, when we are extending an olive branch to the TMC chairperson, we are doing it at our own peril,” a State Congress general secretary said.

TMC leader’s remarks

A few other Congress leaders referred to remarks made the TMC general secretary where he had stated that unlike the Congress, the Trinamool Congress was not scared of Central investigation agencies. “Only a day after the second most important person in the TMC made this remark, the Congress decided not to field a candidate against Ms. Banerjee,” another Congress leader said

The development marks an important episode in the relations between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress. Ms. Banerjee moved out of the Congress to form the Trinamool Congress in 1998. In 2011, the Trinamool Congress and the Congress came together to defeat the Left Front and end its 34-year-old rule.

“The Congress workers in districts like Murshidabad, Malda and Uttar Dinajpur, where the party has still some support base left, will go to other parties. Hindus will go to BJP, while the minority will side with the TMC, resulting in further polarisation in these districts,” political commentator and psephologist Biswanath Chakraborty said.

Chowdhury makes announcement

The announcement that the Congress will not contest against Ms. Banerjee came from State Congress president and party leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. After the 2021 Assembly polls, when the Left and the Congress failed to win even a single seat, he said his personal opinion was that the Congress should not contest against the Chief Minister in Bhabanipur bypoll. A few days ago, he stated that the situation had changed since then and now the Congress’s Central leadership would decide on the issue.

Many in the Congress refer to the 2011 Assembly polls, where Mr. Chowdhury has not allowed the Trinamool Congress to make much dent in his fiefdom of Murshidabad and had put up dummy candidates against TMC candidates who were nominees of the Left-Congress alliance and ensured that most of them lost the polls. Professor Chakraborty feels that more than the impact on the Left-Congress alliance, the Congress has brought about an adverse effect on the morale of its workers.


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