Despite Nitish’s meeting with Mamata, Oppn tie-up unlikely in Bengal

Kolkata, April 30 (IANS)
The crucial meeting between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her counterpart in Bihar, Nitish Kumar on April 24 to pave way for a grand anti-BJP alliance for the 2024 Lok Sabha poll has prompted certain questions to float around in the political circles of the state.
The first question is whether Nitish Kumar was deliberately deputed to crack an understanding with the Trinamool Congress supremo considering that Mamata Banerjee’s party leadership has already made it clear that for the time they will be maintaining an equal distance with the BJP and Congress and instead try to develop an understanding between all the regional parties in the country.
The second question is how far even Nitish Kumar will be finally able to bring the Congress and Trinamool leadership on the same platform. The reply to this question remained unanswered at the joint press conference on April 24 which was attended by Banerjee, Kumar and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who is the deputy chief minister of Bihar.
During the media interaction on that day while a couple of media persons questioned about the position of Congress in the opposition alliance model, Mamata Banerjee virtually stopped those scribes and said that the media does not need to get bothered by that.
“You do not need to think about all these things. We will be together. The people of the country will fight against the BJP. All parties will walk together,” Mamata Banerjee said on that day. During the press conference the chief ministers of both the states stressed that all the opposition parties will have to shed their egos to work unitedly in their joint move against the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
In fact, since the beginning the lines of thinking of Banerjee and Kumar on this grand opposition alliance have been different. While Nitish Kumar, on one hand, has been maintaining a close coordination with the top Congress leaders, including the national Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on this count, Trinamool Congress has been maintaining a distance from the oldest national party of the country.
There the question becomes more pertinent on whether Kumar would be able to finally bring the two forces together, political observers say. They point that both the Congress and Trinamool Congress have some points of debate in the matter which does not really paint a rosy picture of the two forces coming on the same platform at least in the pre-poll scenario.
According to veteran political observer and analyst Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay, since a pre-poll alliance always come with the rider of a seat-sharing agreement, in case of West Bengal it is virtually impossible for Trinamool Congress to sacrifice a single of 42 Lok Sabha seat for the Congress or for any other party.
“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 food for her on this count. Precisely that is why since the time she started her dialogues with other regional parties, she had been insisting on the choice of opposition leader only after the polls. So, from the point of view of Trinamool Congress this is the principal barrier for an amicable understanding with Congress,” Bandopadhyay explained.
From the Congress’s point of view, especially from the party’s West Bengal unit, Bandopadhyay explained, the choice of an amicable understanding with Trinamool Congress will not be an easy task since in that case Congress’s existing understanding with CPI(M)- lead Left Front in West Bengal will receive a setback.
“The recently concluded bypoll to the minority-dominated Sagardighi Assembly constituency in Murshidabad district, where Left Front- supported Congress candidate won with a handsome majority, had made both the parties more enthusiastic of carrying forward the understanding till the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. At the same time, the Congress will be at a bargaining position on seat sharing agreement with the Left Front rather than with Trinamool Congress. So, from the Congress’s point of argument, accepting Trinamool Congress as a partner will not be that easy,” Bandopadhyay explained.
However, political analysts and columnist Amal does not agree that the Sagardighi bypoll results cannot be an ultimate indicator of the Congress-Left Front equations all the time.
“CPI(M) or Left Front being a regimented force can always mobilize their traditional voters behind a Congress candidate as part of an alliance formula. But can the Congress leadership achieve the same mobilization of their dedicated voters in support of a Left Front candidate? So, it cannot be said for certain that the success of the Sagardighi model will be the sole factor that will ensure Congress- Left Front understanding till 2024,” he said.
According to him, the results for forthcoming polls for the three-tier panchayat system in West Bengal scheduled this year, which in all probability a three-corner contest between the Trinamool Congress, BJP and Left Front-Congress alliance, will be a crucial indicator on this count.

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