Manas Bhuiyan, leader of the Congress Legislative Party in West Bengal and the vice-president of the party's state unit, tells Rajat Roy that his party's ties with the Trinamool Congress need to be fine-tuned.
Now that the election results are out, what do you think will happen in the coming days?
At the outset, I must make it clear that the Congress and its allies will form the government at the Centre under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh. But we will keep our doors open to all secular and democratic parties, including our potential allies.
Do you include the Left in the list of potential allies?
Not at all. They were never our allies. The very idea of considering them as our allies is a figment of imagination. Yes, the Left did support the UPA government for four-and-a-half years before withdrawing support. But that arrangement was based on certain commonly agreed issues. Also, all that while, they were supporting us from outside. They never participated in the government. On the contrary, they let us down. They tried to pull down our government.
But don't you feel that this time, your party may have to seek support from the Left to form a stable government at the Centre?
At the moment, we don't visualise any scenario where the support of the Left will be an indispensable factor. The Congress is comfortable with its present allies. We will add to their number in the coming days. As I said earlier, some secular and democratic parties will bridge the gap.
Which political forces will your party be banking on to bridge the number deficit?
It is there for everybody to see. I don't need to identify them. But I can tell you that we are in touch with them.
What if the Congress high command is compelled to re-establish its relations with the Left at the national level? What will be the implications of such a decision on the state unit?
Let me make it clear that it is not in the interest of the state unit of the party. It will definitely put the Congress in West Bengal in a politically disadvantageous situation.
We are fighting against the Left in West Bengal and for that we have joined hands with the Trinamool Congress (TC).Such a move (re-establishing ties with the Left) will create confusion among the rank and file of our party. But I assure you that there is not even a remote possibility of this happening.
Moreover, there is a sharp division among the Left leaders about rebuilding relations with us. Let me tell you that at this juncture, if anybody is keen to see the Congress and the Left coming together in the context of government formation at the Centre, it is the state CPI-M. The CPI-M leaders of our state are not comfortable with our new alliance with the TC. Already, this alliance has been able to change the political equilibrium of the state in our favour. Now, they are afraid of facing us in the coming elections. They will be happy to see our alliance break. They are trying to sell this idea to their central leaders. It is again a battle of the Bengal CPI-M against Karat and his group at the Centre.
So, you consider this as within the realm of possibility?
No, I did not mean that. Just because a few CPI-M leaders are keen to see this happen doesn't mean the situation will develop along those lines. On the contrary, it is the Left parties, which are desperate to save themselves from becoming irrelevant at the national level. Since they are now getting weaker and weaker in West Bengal and Kerala, they are desperate to piggy-ride some regional parties to make their presence felt in national politics. That is the so-called Third Front for you. For them, no one is an untouchable now. This will give rise to a serious problem for the Left workers and sympathisers in the state.
There is a lot of anger among Congress workers in south Bengal for the step-motherly treatment by the alliance partner while distributing seats for these elections. How do you visualise your "united front" working against the Left in West Bengal in the coming days?
We are hopeful that in the coming days, our relationship with the TC will be consolidated further. Though I admit that before that happens, we need to fine-tune our arrangement realistically.
What do you mean by 'realistically'?
It has to be understood in the context of the present political situation. Politics in Bengal is in a fluid state. We must assess the present situation realistically. In the Lok Sabha elections, we had a seat adjustment with the TC. Now, we need to bring more accuracy, some fine-tuning in deciding who should get which seat (in the Assembly elections due in 2011).
If our (Congress and TC's) common goal is to defeat the Left in the assembly elections and put a stop to the Left misrule in the state, we must reduce our differences quickly and correct some of the anomalies at the grassroot level. I only hope that the leaders of both the Congress and the TC act together to reduce the differences.
Next month, we will be engaged in another round of electoral battle with the Left when 19 municipalities go to polls. So, we must not delay that process. Most important is that we need to keep our focus on the assembly elections in 2011. The alliance must be strengthened based on political realities to achieve our cherished goal (for defeating the Left).