Kolkata, Oct 1 (IANS): As the All India Secular Front (AISF) is set to contest the 2024 Lok Sabha polls independently breaking its alliance with the Congress and the CPI-M-led Left Front which was forged in the 2021 West Bengal assembly elections, speculation is rife about how far this two-and-a-half year old party can upset equations for the established political forces in the state -- be it the ruling group or the opposition.
Naushad Siddique, the lone AISF representative in the West Bengal Assembly, has already claimed that the only barrier to his participation in the opposition INDIA alliance is the presence of the Trinamool Congress there. Hence, he had claimed that since the Congress and the CPI-M are both in INDIA, the AISF will contest on 12 to 13 seats from West Bengal independently in 2024.
The seats identified by the AISF for contesting independently are mainly from Murshidabad, Malda, North Dinajpur, Cooch Behar, South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas and Howrah with a substantial proportion of minority votes, enough to decide the fates of the candidates.
Siddique himself has proposed to contest from the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency in South 24 Parganas, which again has a sizeable proportion of minority votes and from where the sitting MP is Trinamool Congress’ national General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee.
The AISF has started preparations for the formation of booth- committees in these constituencies. Siddique himself is moving throughout the state monitoring the process.
Political observers feel that the AISF and Siddique’s move could be a matter of concern for all established parties except the BJP. Currently Siddique is not just the lone representative of the AISF in the Assembly, but he is also the lone representative of the Left Front-Congress-AISF bloc which contested the 2021 Assembly polls jointly. Although in the bypoll forthe Sagardighi assembly constituency in Murshidabad district this year the Left Front- backed Bayron Biswas got elected but he shifted to the Trinamool Congress just a couple of months after his victory.
Secondly, in the recently concluded elections for the three- tier panchayat system in West Bengal, which was marred by massive violence taking a toll of 54 lives, the AISF activists, especially in the minority-dominated pockets, were in the forefront in retaliating against the ruling Trinamool Congress activists. This, according to political observers, is a clear signal that the AISF under the leadership of Siddique, is making dents in the minority vote bank in the state.
According to the observers, the first party which has reasons for concern is the Trinamool Congress. “In the 2021 Lok Sabha polls, almost the entire minority vote bank in West Bengal consolidated behind the Trinamool Congress even in the erstwhile Congress bastions of Murshidabad and Malda and the Left Front’s den in North Dinajpur, as a result of which both the Congress and the Left Front were reduced to zero. The only gainer of this minority vote bank consolidation was the Trinamool Congress. Now, if the AISF makes a dent in that minority voter bank and the BJP is able to consolidate the majority vote bank even to an extent, there is a major reason of concern for the state’s ruling party, said a city-based political observer.
The Trinamool Congress leadership has started describing the AISF and Siddique as the clandestine beneficiaries of the BJP in West Bengal. Siddique, has however, refuted the allegations claiming that such canards against him are q reflection of the Trinamool Congress’s frustration over its inability to make him join hands with the ruling camp in the state.
Political observers feel that the AISF’s independent move is also likely to cause concern for both the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, as it will be a dampener for the faint signal of their revival of their minority vote bank which became evident both in the Sagardighi by-poll as well as in the recently concluded panchayat polls in the state.