The dilemma of the Left and the Congress in charting out their strategy for the Assembly election in West Bengal due in a few months has created much confusion. And the longer this confusion persists, the more both these parties will lose the trust of their core constituencies.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee, who is looking to win his second consecutive term as the chief minister, will not be complaining though.
The Left's dilemma lies in the fact that while it is fighting the Congress-ruled UDF in Kerala, its Bengal unit wants a tie-up with the Congress to defeat the TMC.
The Congress's indecision comes from the fact that while the party's Bengal unit wants to join hands with the Left, the high command has a soft corner for the TMC, which is a much bigger force in the national politics and could be handy around the 2019 Lok Sabha election to beat Narendra Modi.
Banerjee, on the other hand, has mocked the Left for craving for an alliance with the Congress, the party it has identified as its enemy No. 1 for years, saying it is a politically exhausted force now.
She feels a Left-Congress alliance in Bengal is next to impossible and if it happens, several Congress leaders will join the TMC. Last month, Mamata Banerjee even expressed her sympathy for the Congress's top leadership in the National Herald case, which political observers feel was a move to negate the possibility of a Congress-Left alliance in her state.
‘Equation of 2019' to overcome ‘challenge of 2016'
According to insiders, the ruling TMC is not entirely free from anxiety over the possible Left-Congress alliance. If such an alliance materialises, the added vote-share will put the TMC under test in several seats.
In 2011, the Left's own vote-share was not much less than the added vote-share of the TMC and Congress who had contested together.
Left a limited force at Centre, TMC not
However, it is the possibility at the Centre after the 2019 Lok Sabha election which assures Mamata Banerjee. The Congress high command knows very well that the Left has a limited capacity at the national level and it might need the TMC's strength in the House if the situation demands the formation of a coalition government. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's pushing the ball to the state leaders on taking the final decision of forming an alliance with the Left clearly shows that the high command is not ready to take responsibility to solve the puzzle.
It is more worried over the 2019 Lok Sabha results than those in Bengal and hence wants to stay away from forcing its decision, which would either annoy the Bengal unit of the party now or Banerjee later.
Left still doesn't have a consensus
Meanwhile, the Left was far from a consensus on an alliance with the Congress. Two days after former Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee appealed to the Congress to make an alliance with them, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said there would be no alliance.
TMC sources said a top CPI(M) leader had a long meeting with a Congress leader where the former was told that no alliance but strategic understanding could be made in the polls. Was Yechury's decision an outcome of that message?
The CPI(M) was later busy justifying the different stands taken within itself and Yechury said the appropriate decision would be taken at the appropriate time by the politburo and central committee.
The Left has chosen too many wars at one time when it clearly doesn't have the ammunition to win even a single battle.
The party, which is losing its support base fast across the country, has set its sight far too high by wishing a Mamata-free Bengal and Modi-free India.
Fearing a complete washout even in states where it wilfully flexed muscle once, the Left is now driven solely by the immediate goal of remaining alive. Its recent plenum was more about electoral strategizing than chalking out a long-term plan to make itself compatible with the changing socio-economic realities in India.
The Congress, on the other hand, is a divided house now with no common ground between its national and state leaderships. In Bengal, it's fighting a battle of ego with Mamata Banerjee with no substantial vision for the state. For its top leadership, that hollow local battle makes little sense than an alliance with the TMC in the wake of the next general elections.
All in all, Mamata Banerjee is at an advantage and looks favourite to make it two in two in the next elections.