The Left Front, in alliance with the Congress and newly-formed Indian Secular Front, on Sunday projected itself as the “third alternative force” in West Bengal and called for the need of a people’s welfare government, reported PTI. Elections will be held in the state in eight phases from March 27 to April 29, and the results will be announced on May 2.

“Our call is we want a janhit sarkar [people’s welfare government] in Bengal for its overall development and protection of rights of the masses,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said at a rally in Kolkata.

Yechury said that the Trinamool Congress has to be defeated first to stop the communal bandwagon of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Bharatiya Janata Party. He claimed that the Trinamool Congress might rejoin the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance to form the government in the state in case of a hung Assembly.

“The TMC has been part of NDA [for several years] since 1998,” Yechury said. “It was part of the NDA government. In case of a hung Assembly, I am confident that the TMC would join hands with the BJP to form the state’s government.”

The CPI(M) leader called the tussle between the TMC and the BJP a “mock fight”. He accused the BJP of using money from the PM-CARES fund, which was set up to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, to “buy” leaders of other parties in the state.

He also criticised the BJP for attacking other parties, especially the Congress for “dynasty politics”, and asked how Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s son became the secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. “The BJP talks about corruption and dynasty politics,” Yechury said. “A stadium is named after Narendra Modi. Amit Shah’s son is an office-bearer in the cricket association.”

The CPI(M) general secretary asserted that the state was headed for a triangular fight in the coming polls as the Left-Congress electoral alliance is a formidable contender against the TMC and the BJP.

CPI(M)’s West Bengal Secretary Surya Kanta Mishra accused the TMC and the BJP of dividing the people of the state on communal lines to serve their political interests. He said the state needed a government that would work for Bengal’s development.

“The TMC and the BJP are two sides of the same coin,” Mishra claimed. “They plan to divide people on communal lines and rule. We have seen how TMC leaders are joining the BJP lock, stock and barrel. Except for the chief minister and some other leaders, the rest have switched over to the BJP. Both the TMC and the BJP now stand unmasked. We, the Left along with the Congress, would provide an alternative to people.”

CPI(M) Politburo member Mohammed Salim said the alliance would give a “knock out” punch to the “communal” TMC and the BJP. “We are fighting for changing the situation in Bengal, and some people are busy changing sides,” he said. “Those who looted public money in chit fund scams are now switching over from one party to another. If we are voted to power, we will auction properties of corrupt leaders to return the looted money.”

Left Front Chairperson Biman Bose said the “autocratic” TMC and the “fascist and communal” BJP were on one side, while all other secular and democratic forces on the other. “This is a crucial battle,” he added.

Communist Party of India Secretary D Raja accused Modi and Amit Shah of violating the spirit of the Constitution. He further alleged that Modi, Shah and RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat want to destroy the spirit of the Constitution as their agenda is to make India a Hindu state.

Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury called the alliance the “rainbow for a new change”, reported The Times of India. He said the poll battle was not limited to just two parties – the BJP and the TMC. “Those who had thrown up the Modi-Mamata binary in Bengal should rethink after Sunday’s rally,” he said. “In future, there will not be any BJP or TMC; only the grand alliance will remain”.

Indian Secular Front leader Abbas Siddiqui pledged his support to the Left parties, but stopped short of doing the same for the Congress. “We want bhagidari [partnership] in electoral politics,” he said. “I would like to thank the Left Front for sacrificing their own seats to give us 30.”

Siddiqui’s remarks are being seen as part of a strategy to put pressure on the Congress to yield some ground in seat-sharing with the Indian Secular Front before talks between them begin on Monday.

Earlier, Siddiqui arrived just as Chowdhury was addressing the rally. Siddiqui’s arrival on stage led to his supporters making noises to stop the Congress leader from finishing his speech, according to India Today. It seemed that Chowdhury would have to cut down his speech but it did not happen.

Speaking about the apparent problems with the Congress, Siddiqui told India Today that he did not want the votes to be divided but had asked for clarity from the Sonia Gandhi-led party.

“Don’t want the vote to be divided; have asked Congress for clarity, if they want an alliance,” Siddiqui said. “With Left, our alliance is on. We are still speaking with [AIMIM chief Asaduddin] Owaisi, once it’s done, we will speak about it.”

On the Indian Secular Front chief, Chowdhury said the Congress will not take decisions based on threats and intimidation by “some Siddiqui”. “We are into a formal alliance with the Left,” he said. “Let us first get a clear picture of the seat-sharing with the Left.”

Chowdhury added that the party has asked Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, Abdul Mannan, to talk to the Indian Secular Front and look into its demands.

‘Congress leader in touch with TMC, BJP, might switch sides’

A day after the rally, Siddiqui on Monday claimed that a senior Congress leader was in contact with the TMC and the BJP and might switch sides depending on results of the elections, reported PTI.

“If my words [at Sunday’s rally] have hurt Adhir Chowdhury, then I apologise,” Siddiqui said. “But, I have information that a senior Congress leader is in touch with the TMC and the BJP, and could switch sides in case of a hung assembly.”

However, senior Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya called the allegations baseless. “Why doesn’t he name the Congress leader who he claims is in touch with the BJP and TMC?” Bhattacharya asked. “We can’t decide on an alliance just because he is in a hurry. We will decide following our meeting with Left leaders.”