Kolkata: The West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) said last week that the party high command has allowed the local leaders to independently decide on an alliance with the Left parties for the 2019 general elections.

The development comes days after Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee hinted at fighting the general elections alone in the state.

According to the WBPCC, Congress chiefs in each state have been empowered to decide on local pre-poll alliances.

While state party president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury is keen to form an alliance with the Left parties, others, including former state president Somen Mitra and Lok Sabha MP Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, were opposed to it and, instead, were open to tie up with the Trinamool Congress.

In a public address on 21 July, Banerjee had said that the Trinamool Congress will sweep all 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, indicating that she was not interested in an alliance with the Congress in the state.

Four Congress legislators defected the same day to the Trinamool Congress, in a clear sign that the national party continues to lose ground in West Bengal.

“Why should we not grab all the seats if we can?" asked a Trinamool Congress leader, requesting anonymity. “The strength of the potential grand alliance will come from numbers."

Asked if the Left parties could partner the Congress in West Bengal in the 2019 general elections, Rabin Deb, a central committee member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, said no decision had yet been taken. Deliberations over electoral strategy are likely to start in September, he said. The CPM has had disagreements within its politburo over an alliance with the Congress.

In the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal, the CPM and its allies had entered into a seat sharing arrangement with the Congress, but the outcome was disastrous. The Trinamool Congress won a landslide victory, bagging 211 of the 294 seats, while the Congress came a distant second with 44 seats. The Left parties won in only 32.

The results showed that Congress supporters had not voted for the CPM and its allies despite the alliance, according to Biswanath Chakraborty, an independent election analyst and a professor of political science at Kolkata’s Rabindra Bharati University.

An alliance with the CPM for the 2019 general elections will be “inconsequential" for the Congress, he said.

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