Battle for Bengal - Here's how parties are gearing up for the upcoming polls

Written by: Priyanka
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Election is all about contest and challenges. It can turn foes into friends and make them sink their differences in no time. And that's how recent political developments have started surfacing in the poll-bound Bengal. New alliances seem to be preoccupying the political parties in the state as the battle for Bengal kicks off.

West Bengal

CPI(M) in Bengal:

The erstwhile ruling party of the state - CPIM has started giving out green signals for a possible merge with the Congress, with whom the party has been at loggerheads in several states. In its desperate attempt to challenge the ruling TMC, the communist party has increasingly been vocal about a grand alliance with Congress.

Former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has for the first time openly invited Congress for an alliance, while addressing a public meeting in Singur last month. Although soon after this statement, Bhattacharjee had to face criticism from his own party members, however the wave in favour of this alliance started evolving with many party members coming in support of this idea.

In a recently held state secretariat meeting of the CPI(M), as many as 41 members of the 53 who spoke have supported the idea of joining hands with Congress. There were altogether seventy-three members and out of them only eleven opposed the move. However, a final decision on the alliance is yet to be taken by the party after the two-day Central Committee meet that begins today.

Although state level CPM members along with Sitaram Yechury expressed eagerness to join hands with Congress, a large section of Politburo members had opposed the idea.

Among the politburo members, Prakash Karat, S Ramachandran Pillai, Manik Sarkar Pinayan Bijayan, BV Raghbalu, Brinda Karat, Kodiyari Balakrishnan, M A Baby, A K Padmanabhan, Subhashini Alira came out strongly against the idea, keeping in view the recent stalemate between both the parties at national level and also its long standing differences in the state of Kerala and Tripura, as this will play a key role in shaping their political future.

Another point that plays a major role in their decision making is that a large part of the politburo and central committee members are in favor of Karat, hence the decision ultimately would lie on him.

Even as the party awaits a nod from the high command on a truck with the Congress in the state, both the parties were recently seen taking to streets and jointly protesting against the police action at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The parties also jointly slammed TMC for its silence on the JNU police action, which according to some party members fortified their resolution for a joint march.

The joint march assumes significance as it comes at a time when both the parties are mulling plans on their alliance in the poll-bound states.

Meanwhile, in an interview with New Indian Express, former communist leader Somnath Chatterjee has asserted that an alliance between the Congress and the Left Front was not a "political option but a necessity".

Congress in Bengal:

The situation of Congress is much like CPIM in the state, as the party has split down over decision on an appropriate alliance. While a large number of Congress members, including State President Adhir Chowdhury, have been eager to join hands with the Left, Congress Central leadership hinted otherwise. The central leaders have shown more keenness in merging with TMC, as they did during the last assembly elections.

Adhir Chowdhury had earlier said: "It is for the Congress High Command to take a call on this matter (of forging alliance with CPI(M) in Bengal). But as far as I know a large section of Congress workers want to forge an alliance with CPI(M) in order to oust this undemocratic TMC regime."

WBPCC spokesperson, Omprakash Mishra also wrote a letter to party President Sonia Gandhi last month, seeking seat adjustment with Left Front in the upcoming election. He said, "A Congress-Left Front seat adjustment with a declared common minimum programme would dethrone the TMC government and usher in a Congress-LF alliance in West Bengal."

While formation of new alliances seem to be preoccupying the party members, major challenges remain in front of the Congress party while taking a final call. Keeping in view Congress's shaky base in the state it is unlikely that the party will enjoy a smooth sail to the end without a strong alliance.

Besides, another concerning factor for the party in regards to forming alliance with the Left party is that in several districts in the state CMP is the main opposition, which will make it lot more difficult for the party to take a call on forming an alliance.

Congress had contested the last assembly elections in alliance with TMC which ousted the CPI(M)-led Left Front after 34 years. The two parties, however, parted ways in September 2012 after Trinamool Congress walked out of the UPA-2 government at the Centre.

BJP in Bengal:

While CMP and Congress are too engrossed in making a cherry pick, the BJP started reviving its poll-strategies by rolling out some big shots to battle for Bengal. From actress Locket Chatterjee to TV fame Rupa Ganguly all were seen wooing voters and taking to streets to reach out to common people since past few weeks.

The BJP last year headed for a major reshuffle by removing several district organizational presidents to rejig its party organization from the grassroots. Then RSS hand Dilip Ghosh became the new state President, toppling Rahul Sinha.

The former state BJP secretary who has considerable support from central leadership on his side, has ensured this time of more active participation by the central leaders in campaigns organized by the state party unit.

Beside the four-mega rallies addressed in January by top party members like Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and Smriti Irani, the highlights of their efforts will also be the two marches slated for February and March.

Declining law and order situation and violence against women have been the focal point of their campaigns and marches, to take a potshot at the ruling TMC, under whose rule the state has witnessed several rape incidents.

Rajnath Singh while addressing a poll campaign last month spoke emphatically on the worsening law and order situation in the state. He also expressed concern over infiltration through India-Bangladesh border.

Roopa Ganguly's recent 10-day march over rising crimes against women in the state also created quite an impact. The BJP Mahila Morcha group kicked off the march on February 6 from Kamduni to Kakdwip. Her recent activities and tenacity even made people draw parallel with the lady chief of the state.

Meanwhile, state president Dilip Ghosh declared that the BJP in the state is not scared of TMC, and openly challenged the ruling party while addressing a convention. Ghosh asserted how their party agenda have increased the trust in the people of Bengal for BJP.

The party is also gearing up for six mega election rallies to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the end of March.

TMC:

While the oppositions are working on their agendas to oust the ruling party, Mamata-led TMC has finally started working on some major loopholes that have posed a threat for its image.

After coming under pressure from different section over incidents like Malda and Kaliachak, the state intelligence bureau have decided for a complete makeover in next few months. It has aimed for a complete overhaul with a separate directorate, new offices in districts, own recruitment, etc.

Mamata Banerjee also has recently been seen stressing on the need to cooperate with industry. During the Bengal Summit she also announced of full cooperation from the state for all industries, with an attempt to revive the image of Bengal after Nano impasse.

Mamata has also recently warned her party members at all level to not to indulge in factionalism and avoid internal feuds. According to a Firstpost report, Banerjee said, "Those who have just joined the party should not think that they will become MP/ MLA the very next day. I had come through student and youth politics. I had joined politics in mid seventies and contested Lok Sabha election in 1984 from Jadavpur constituency as many were unwilling to contest that seat then. Then I fought for 30 years."

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