The Left parties are willing to provide outside support to any alternative coalition to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre. But they are in a fix about the possibility of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress becoming a part of such an arrangement, according to a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI (M)’s politburo.
“We really do not know what to do if such a situation arises. Supporting Trinamool would be suicidal for us in Bengal. But keeping the BJP out of power is also important,” said the member of the party’s highest decision-making body.
The TMC, which won 34 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 national polls, wrested power from the Left Front after 34 years in West Bengal. The Left had nine members in the last Lok Sabha. Its key poll slogan in West Bengal is: “Defeat BJP, defeat Trinamool”.
The Left supported the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government before it withdrew support to it over the 2008 India-United States of America nuclear deal. The Congress later formed an alliance with the TMC and Banerjee served as the railway minister in the UPA government. The Left wants to support an alternative government also because a section of its leaders considers withdrawal of support from the UPA government a “blunder”.
CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said his party has always tried to provide outside support to secular governments at the Centre. “Be it in 1996 when [H D] Deve Gowda became the Prime Minister or the 2004 post-poll formation. In 2004, we emerged as the largest political group after the Congress and BJP but we chose to remain outside the government,” he said.
Yechury insisted a party can play an effective role from outside. “With 60 MPs [members of Parliament]… we pressured the [Congress-led] UPA [United Progressive Alliance government] to roll out unprecedented pro-people reforms like the Right to Information Act… the new land acquisition law and MGNREGA [Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act].”
Yechury is known to enjoy an excellent equation with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who often address him as chief.
Former parliamentary affairs secretary Afzal Amanullah said the Left can think about its strategy later. “First, it needs to come out of its current status of irrelevance. If Mamata Banerjee gets over 30 seats and the Left remains in a single-digit tally, then she would be a preferred partner.”
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