The Trinamool Congress, led by the charismatic West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, is for the first time contesting the Lok Sabha election in the State without an alliance with either the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The alliance the party had with the BJP from 1998 to 2004 had not brought it much success. Its alliance with the Congress fell apart in September 2012 after it withdrew support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government then.
The political equations in West Bengal have changed dramatically since the Assembly election in 2011, which the Trinamool Congress won by an overwhelming margin. In the Lok Sabha election in 2009, the party won 20 of the 42 seats in an alliance with the Congress. So the leaders and cadres are confident of winning a substantial number of seats even when going it alone in the coming election.
“We hope to win all (42) seats,” Ms. Banerjee said after announcing the list of candidates.
The Trinamool Congress was formed on January 1, 1998, for the “historical necessity” of removing the Communist Party of India (Marxist) from power in the State, as the party leadership puts it. The defining slogan for the 2011 Assembly election was “Paribartan” (change), and Ms. Banerjee, who ushered in that change, has emerged as the most important political leader in the State.
Many believe that striking an alliance with the Congress is critical for the success of Ms. Banerjee and her party in the coming election. So will going it alone in the coming election hamper the prospects of the ruling party? The question assumes significance particularly when the elections in West Bengal will present a four-cornered contest in some constituencies — for the first time in recent years — with the Congress and the BJP expected to emerge as important contenders, besides the Left Front? The Trinamool Congress leadership, however, claims that contesting the election without an ally will have no adverse effect on its base as Ms. Banerjee’s support has increased significantly after the 2009 Lok Sabha and the 2011 Assembly elections.
“We are not part of an unholy alliance; ours is an alliance of the people,” she said.Cutting into Left base
The elections to the local bodies in 2013 showed that the Trinamool Congress enjoyed the support of a majority of the electorate. The party reasserted its strength in rural West Bengal, winning 13 of the 17 zilla parishads in the election held in July. The ruling party continued its winning streak by coming to power in eight of the 12 civic bodies that went to polls in September.
Both the elections gave indications of the dwindling support base of the Left parties.
“Moreover, Left Front supporters are joining us in their hundreds every day — so there is no need to believe that the vote base of the Left parties is intact in West Bengal anymore,” Government Chief Whip in the State Assembly Shobandeb Chatterjee says.
During the elections, however, the Opposition had levelled allegations that the Trinamool Congress indulged in electoral malpractices and resorted to threats and intimidation of candidates of other political parties. The party leadership, however, feels that going it alone will be an advantage for the party, particularly when it is trying to make a mark on national politics and has called for a non-Congress, non-BJP “federal front.”
“We are against the corruption of the Congress and communalism of the BJP,” party general secretary Mukul Roy said. Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra, a Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M), however, said Ms. Banerjee was getting “isolated” both in the State and at the national level. Though the Trinamool Congress remains the most prominent political force in West Bengal, it is to be seen whether the absence of a major ally can affect its prospects.
Keywords: Lok Sabha polls 2014, Lok Sabha elections 2014, Jayalalithaa, election rally, Mamata Banerjee, mandate 2014, general elections 2014, AIADMK, DMK, MDMK, DMDK, Trinamool Congress, Sri Lankans Tamil issue, Left parties, West Bengal local body election