In Bengal, Left And Congress Are Struggling To Make Their Awkward Marriage Work

But is the electorate ready to buy this new-found love? Public memory is short but the Congress and CPM have a lot of bad blood between them here. Literally.

In Bengal, Left And Congress Are Struggling To Make Their Awkward Marriage Work
In Bengal, Left And Congress Are Struggling To Make Their Awkward Marriage Work

Someone please fire the DJ. It’s a cliché but understandable that the muzak of choice for a political rally in Kolkata will be Rabindrasangeet.

And so it was for the “historic” grand alliance between the Left Front and Congress in Bengal. (This product is not meant for sale in Kerala.)

But really, who chose Jodi Tor Daak Shuney Keu Na Aashey, Tobey Ekla Chalo Re? (If no one answers your call, then go it alone)?

That hardly struck the most optimistic note as Rahul Gandhi and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Congress’ future and CPM’s past, came together finally on one stage to try and change Bengal’s present.

On a baking hot afternoon in Kolkata, one thing was clear. If this “jot” or understanding is a marriage (and there was a giant garland shared between the two to solemnize it), it’s more of an arranged marriage than a love marriage.

“The Congress is riding on the CPM’s shoulders,” says Chanchal Ghosh. “It’s the CPM worker who gets beaten up, not the Congress. That three-and-half year old who got beaten, that was our worker’s child.” Ghosh sells Communist party literature at rallies, books with names like White Mamata, Black Mamata. But he is optimistic. Even though voting is not over, he says the “jot” will win by 50 seats. He’s read it on the internet, he assures me.

“A dark cloud is hanging over our state. A terrible government is wreaking havoc. We cannot be free from it on our own.”

The two stars of the evening are not quite as ready to pin numbers on their hopes.

“A dark cloud is hanging over our state. A terrible government is wreaking havoc. We cannot be free from it on our own,” warns Buddha-babu in his best Gandalf avatar. “We must fight together.”

Alliance chunav jeet raha hai aur jeetney wala hai, (Alliance is winning the election and will win it) ” promises Rahul channeling Frodo.

This crowd wants to believe it. They whoop when Deepa Das Munshi, who is taking on Mamata herself, vows “Didi came in sandals and will depart in scandals.” They cheer when state party chief Adhir Chowdhury promises “This is not jot. This is not ghot (muddle). This is Bengal’s citizens saying Trinamool, phot (Trinamool, scram).”

But is the electorate ready to buy this new-found love? Public memory is short but the Congress and CPM have a lot of bad blood between them here. Literally. “What of the 55,000 Congress (and Trinamool) workers killed by Communists in 34 years of Left rule?” asks TMC’s Derek O’Brien.

In 1970, two Congress loyalists in Burdwan, brothers Pranab Sain and Moloy Sain were murdered in front of their mother allegedly by CPM cadres. She was then forced to eat rice stained with their blood. Her eldest son Naba Kumar had his eyes gouged out. Mamata Banerjee formed the first enquiry commission into the Sainbari murder. But Bijay Kumar Sain, the youngest son says Trinamool plays its own political games.

“The ruling party wanted me to name people I don’t remember being present at the time of the attack. If I followed the diktat, I would probably have got a government job.”

Obviously no one mentions inconvenient truths like Sainbari as Buddhadeb and Rahul share a garland together. The crowd sounds more dutiful than pumped as it shouts “Swagatam swagatam”. These permutations are not that new. Mamata has been “natural allies” with both BJP and Congress and the Communists have propped up the Congress in Delhi. “Since its inception, the CPM branded the Congress and BJP as authoritarian and communal respectively,” writes R. Upadhyay.

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