Mamata idea gets Left foot

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s move for a “federal front” could take a hit as the JD(U), Biju Janata Dal and Telegu Desam Party have opened talks with the CPI(M), her arch-rival. The JD(U), which has held parleys with Ms Banerjee on her proposed “federal front”, approached CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury to talk about a “third alternative” on Thursday. It seems that even before there is any progress on an alternative front, the pulls, pressure and chaos of a “khichdi” formation have started haunting the non-Congress, non-BJP outfits. Politically, the CPI(M) and Trinamul cannot be allies.
While on one hand the regional satraps held talks with Ms Banerjee and kept harping on her idea of a “federal front”, they also quietly started a dialogue with the CPI(M). JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav, who has so far been talking about a “federal front”, spoke to Mr Yechury on the possibilities of a third alternative. Sources said all regional leaders were in constant touch with both the CPI(M) and the Trinamul Congress.
While the CPI(M) has 16 Lok Sabha seats, the Trinamul Congress has 27. The combined strength of the four Left parties (CPI-M, CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP) is 27 Lok Sabha berths. On July 1, the Left parties will hold a joint convention to take a call on the formation of an “alternative front”.
Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Yechury said “no third alternative can be formed without the participation of the Left parties”.
With the Left parties moving in, electoral politics might get tricky for Ms Banerjee as she is not considered a “reliable ally” by the other regional outfits. A senior leader whose outfit has held talks with Ms Banerjee on the “federal front” said: “The Left parties are politically more mature and reliable. It might be difficult to do business with Mamata.”
It may be recalled that Ms Banerjee tasted the political manoeuvring of regional satraps when she joined hands with the Samajwadi Party last year to block Pranab Mukherjee as the UPA’s presidential candidate. At the last moment she was left high and dry as the Samajwadis changed tack at the last minute and supported Mr Mukherjee’s candidature. Ms Banerjee had no alternative but to toe the line eventually.
Also, many of the regional groups feel Ms Banerjee’s hold in West Bengal is on the wane and that the Left could improve its performance in the state. In Kolkata, CPI(M) politburo member Surya Kanta Mishra, Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, went on record to say that Ms Banerjee’s call for a “federal front” was “nothing but a ploy” to increase her bargaining power with the BJP and the Congress before the 2014 elections.

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