That the Congress will not ally with the Trinamool Congress in Bengal ahead of the Lok Sabha elections isn't surprising. But would that open the doors for a possible Left Front-Congress tie-up? There are those in both the camps who don't think it’s impossible.
On Saturday, after a meeting of state Congress chiefs with Rahul Gandhi got over, Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra said the party will be going alone in the state.
With no likelihood of the Trinamool Congress ceding any ground to the grand old party in the state, the Congress has also recently seen its MP Mausam Noor switching over to the ruling party.
According to sources, Rahul had said in the meeting, "If there is an alliance with dignity, it (alliance) will be there, otherwise, there won't be one. There won't be any alliance with the Trinamool Congress.”
Ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Left and Congress had buried the hatchet to take on the Mamata Banerjee-led party together.
However, the alliance was ill-fated. The Left’s vote share went down by 10%, while the Congress’ improved by 3%.
Almost immediately after the result, the Left, particularly in Bengal, was criticised from several quarters, both within the party and from its allies in the state.
Former Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, whose principal opposition in the state till recently was the Congress, reportedly referred to the move as a 'historic blunder'. The Left in Kerala was also critical of the alliance.
However, the state Congress and the Left continued to have identical stands on different issues, particularly, the assertion that the TMC and BJP have conspired to ensure that the state polls become a two-sided contest that aids both.
Leader of the opposition in the assembly Abdul Mannan said “Mamata's protest (against the CBI) was a got-up game, a scripted drama where there is a villain and a hero. But it isn't real."
The Left agreed and since then, the two parties have demanded that they also be allowed to protest at Esplanade where Banerjee staged her sit-in and where she had, in the past, banned protests.
The Congress, though, hopes that the Left will come around. "They are with us in the House. They are with us on different issues and we are united in our stand against the TMC and BJP. We are hopeful that they will ally with us. But they need to get their house in order," said a state Congress leader.
That remains the key challenge, Left leaders admitted. A senior Left leader told News18.com that a potential alliance with the Congress would benefit the latter, but it was something that the Left might still need to do.
"The Left has support. It has more support in the state than the Congress. But it is not concentrated in a few seats. That means that the Congress is more likely to win elections. But if the alliance is not worked out, there is a possibility that we will be wiped out entirely."
Of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal, Trinamool had won 34 seats in 2014. At present, there are four Congress MPs of whom one recently defected to the ruling party, while the Left has 2 Lok Sabha members.