By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2023-03-03 03:43:27
After the Trinamool Congress (TMC) lost the bypoll from Sagardihi (necessitated after the death of state Minister for State for Food Processing Subrata Saha, who won the seat thrice) to the Congress, TMC supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee came out all guns blazing against the Congress and the CPM.
She accused the two parties of being in a secret, "immoral" alliance with the BJP and said that the BJP transferred a part of its votes in Sagardihi (but God only knows how she put the figure at 13%) to the Congress to ensure the defeat of the TMC candidate. She claimed that the Congress, the Left and the BJP have a tacit understanding in West Bengal.
She also made a big announcement that is likely to puncture all efforts of opposition unity ahead of the 2024 general elections. Mamata Banerjee said that the TMC will not be a part of any opposition alliance in 2024 if it includes either the Congress or the CPM. That effectively means that the TMC is ruling out opposition unity in 2024. Banerjee further said that the alliance in 2024 will be between the TMC and the people and her party will go solo.
Mamata Banerjee is a senior opposition leader. With 42 Lok Sabha seats, West Bengal is an important state which can contribute much to the strength of a united opposition in Parliament. Although the BJP won 18 LS seats from the state in 2019, its subsequent performance in the same seats in the 2021 assembly elections was disastrous. It seems that Banerjee wants to go solo and focus entirely on winning as many seats as she can from West Bengal to be in a strong bargaining position in any post-poll alliance of opposition parties.
With the Congress winning just 44 seats in 2014 and 52 seats in 2019, the regional parties know that there will come a time when they will pip the Congress in the Lok Sabha. But it is too early to write the party off. The ensuing elections in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, where the party will be in direct contest with the BJP, will show the way forward for opposition unity. If the Congress does well in these four states, it will in a position to dictate terms. Otherwise, other than its allies like the DMK or the JMM, all other regional parties will like to go solo like the TMC and think of a post-poll alliance only.