Netas propose, Mahajot 'disposes'? The pre-poll talks between the CPM and Congress, which began in October 2020, seem to have hit a wall, with the emergence of Abbas Siddiqui's Indian Secular Front (ISF).
The party, which predominantly talks of Muslim interests, will dent the image of the Congress were it to have an open pact with the former, a fact already realised by the Congress. And the ISF’s ‘stubborn’ demand for Malda and Murshidabad hasn't gone down well with the Congress either, as the grand old party has managed to hold its own in these places in the most strenuous of circumstances.
Despite being in talks with the Congress since October 2020, why the CPM is trying to lap up Abbas’s ISF is understandable, given its past track record. But Abbas’s strong ‘sentiments’ on display the other day at the Brigade Parade Grounds was observed by one and all and despite being a new party, his approach, manner of address and ‘aggro’ have stunned many. His style of functioning rang out loud and clear. He may talk of getting backward Hindus and Dalits along with Muslims under his political banner but that may just be a facade. But the connotation of his speeches have left no doubt about his preferences.
On Sunday, the Brigade showdown was highly apparent when an overzealous CPM MP Salim was overjoyed to welcome Abbas on stage. However, this seemed to irk Congress’s leader in the Lok Sabha and its party chief in West Bengal party, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who has securely held on to the vestiges of the party fort even at its lowest ebb.
Salim wanted Adhir to apparently make way for Abbas, but the situation was tactfully handled by CPM veteran Biman Bose and a fragile truce was maintained. Abbas didn’t mince his words and attacked the Congress from the dais, notwithstanding the fact that it was a solidarity show. The Mahajot cut a sorry figure with the message that went across.
Later, Adhir went on to say he was in talks with the CPM and was not giving much thought to Abbas and his demands and giving up Malda and Murshidabad was out of the question.
What if Mahajot happens?
If the Mahajot happens, and given Abbas's rhetoric, the TMC will have to face the brunt, as a major share of the state’s 30 per cent Muslim vote could swing towards Abbas's Indian Secular Front. This is mainly due to the fact that no Muslim leader in Bengal has so far been this outspoken and vociferous for Muslims and in several of his highly fierce speeches, he has asked for ‘their hissa (share)’ and this might have a telling impact. However, there will still be some Muslims who will continue to be faithful to the Trinamool government, having benefited and believing that every vote would count in making a government. Going by the pre-poll status, there is no talk of joining the Trinamool, and in case it inches close to the magic figure, if the Mahajot helps form the Trinamool government, it would make a try for their votes, otherwise, the exercise would be futile.
Even as Abbas's ‘hatred’ for Mamata has been apparent, again, it is needless to say that in politics there are no permanent enemies. And if that happens, the Trinamool, which now looks to be affected by the Mahajot, may well have the last laugh.
Political analysts are already saying that the CPM's proximity to the ISF could be a Himalayan blunder. The CPM, with a foot in two boats - the Congress and Indian Secular Front – might just rock the whole set-up.
Realising the Indian Secular Front's only USP, it could be that the Congress is unwilling to have any truck with it. But with MPs like Salim, the Left is hardly left with any choice and who is actually calling the shots in that party is a matter of concern.
Interestingly, at the Brigade Parade Ground meeting on Sunday, it was noticed clearly that besides Biman Bose and Surya Kanta Misra, leaders like Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, D Raja and Sitaram Yechury were the stalwarts in evidence. One may clearly ask if these leaders aren't ‘outsiders’. If the whole fight of ‘Bahiragata’ (outsiders) started with the presence of JP Nadda, Amit Shah et al, what happened to the Left? Why are they so dependent on so many outsiders?
The Left has left a lot of questions unanswered. Their cosying up to the ISF even after its evident, orthodox, hardline approach only shows that the Left is hell-bent on an increased vote share, come what may. They seem to be willing to give up their secular outlook for this.
What’s in store for BJP?
Whatever happens to the Mahajot, as long as Abbas gets his way, the BJP can rest assured that its vote bank is in no threat. In fact, it would want the Mahajot to happen, in order to erode Mamata's vote share.
Even if the Mahajot is formed with the help of the ISF and a sizable Muslim vote is eaten up by the alliance, in the whole process, Trinamool will stand to lose heavily. Hence, Abbas or no Abbas, BJP is enjoying the fight from the ringside and must be praying for the Mahajot to take shape.
The extent of Trinamool’s wariness can be gauged after the veteran journalist-turned-BJP spokesperson, Swapan Dasgupta, alleged that TMC strongman and Kolkata Mayor Bobby Hakim had apparently addressed Muslims in a mosque, asking them to vote for and wholeheartedly support Trinamool. Dasgupta said Hakim had violated the Election Commission’s model code of conduct and he sought action.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will soon address a mammoth gathering at the Brigade Parade Grounds. Coming shortly after his vaccination – his endorsement of the Indian vaccine will stand him in good stead, having boosted the aam aadmi’s faith in the vaccine and is likely to have a far-reaching impact.
Meanwhile, only time will tell if there’s a jolt in the Mahajot and who will stand to benefit thereby.
The writer is Senior Associate Editor, Free Press, Indore.