Ram or Baam: The Dilemma of Left Voters Troubles The Leaders

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The third force will come third in this election, knows every voter of Bengal. The Left-Congress combination has now some added strength as Abbas Siddique (a young but influential Muslim cleric) has joined them. But it will help them only in Muslim dominated constituencies, and will to that extent damage the prospect of the TMC.

But what about the Hindus? It is a time of polarisation in Bengal. And the common refrain among the Left supporter Hindu voters is ’21-e Ram, ‘26-e baam’ (Ram in ’21, Left in ’26).  They have a simple logic for it. They believe if they vote for the BJP this time, the TMC will be out and then the party ‘without any ideology’ will be over. Putting forward this argument, a middle-aged couple who have voted many times for the Left in the past further says, “Some of the TMC men will join the BJP, some the Congress, and only a small fraction will remain in TMC. In this situation the fight in future will be between the Left and the BJP. Then we’ll again vote for the Left.”

They call it tactical voting. For them the TMC is enemy number one. Such tactical voting was noticed in near about two-third of the Lok Sabha constituencies in Bengal, helping the BJP to win 18 out of 42 seats. This time it is likely to be seen all over Bengal. It worries the leaders. While addressing a public meeting recently in North Bengal, Manik Sarkar (former Chief Minister of Tripura) has said, “Many of us have realised they committed a mistake in 2019 by voting for Ram. This time you cannot afford to commit the same mistake.”

The supporters are not convinced though. In 2019 the CPI(M) got just 6.34 per cent vote and the Congress 5.6 per cent. With this meagre vote share, the Left-Congress cannot emerge as winner, they know.

What is troubling the Left supporters further is the assumption that the Congress or the ISF led by Abbas may join hands with the TMC if the polls throw up a hung assembly. The Congress had allied with the TMC in 2011 when Mamata Banerjee came to power, and Abbas had approached the TMC before bargaining with the Left. And on this count many of the Left supporters cannot trust their parties either.

Though Sonia Gandhi has not responded to Mamata Banerjee’s recent appeal for all anti-BJP parties to come together, Rahul Gandhi’s attack against the Left in Kerala has created further apprehension among the Left supporters. Rahul has asked why Narendra Modi does not ever talk about ‘CPI(M)-mukt Bharat’, and why the BJP does not try to defeat the Left in the same way as he tries to defeat other opposition parties. While it is known that the BJP did defeat the Left to come to power in Tripura, Rahul’s spiel may help further veering of anti-TMC votes around the BJP.

The Left leaders cannot fight this trend as for decades they have helped grow a very strong anti-TMC sentiment among their supporters. Now even if they try to preach that the BJP is their number one ideological opponent, there will be few takers.

((The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books))


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