Claiming that his party would be at an advantage as in 1977 when Jayaprakash Narayan's Janata Party had spurned its tie-up offer in the fight against Indira Gandhi, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has blamed what he termed the "rigidity" of the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress for the breakdown in the alliance talks between the two parties in West Bengal.
In an interview to PTI, Yechury said the breakdown of talks with the Janata Party in 1977 in Bengal had benefitted the CPI(M), which emerged as the only anti-Congress force in the state. He hoped this time too the party would be at an advantage, as the only front fighting the Trinamool Congress and the BJP.
"In Bengal, we said that there will be no mutual contest in the sitting seats. The Congress was unfortunately rigid...we have been sincere in our no-contest offer, it is the Congress which reneged. So the perception which has gone to the people of the state is that the only consistent force which can take on the TMC and the BJP in Bengal is the Left," he said.
With the BJP emerging as the main contender to the ruling Trinamool Congress, the CPI(M), which won two of the state's 42 parliamentary seats in 2014, faces an uphill task to retain its strength in a state it had ruled 35 years till 2011.
Asked what led to the failure of the Left and the Congress to stitch together an alliance in the state, Yechury referred to his party's talks for a tie-up with the then Janata Party in 1977 and said the CPI(M) had offered it around 52 per cent seats while it wanted two-thirds.
"This is precisely what happened with the Janata Party in Bengal. They were not ready to budge from their demand. Then Jyoti Basu went to the people of Bengal and told them that we were giving the Janata Party a majority but they didn't want it.
"We eventually emerged as the party which was consistently anti-Congress and then we continued to win there," the CPI(M) chief said on the fight against the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government in the post-Emergency period.
The Left leader also said that while there was no scope of negotiations left in Bengal, the Congress going separately would help create a "momentum" for the Left Front.
The failure in talks of the two parties has now paved the way for a four-cornered contest in Bengal among the Trinamool Congress, the BJP, the Left Front and the Congress.
"We declared the seats minus their sitting seats, we waited for more than 48 hours, we didn't declare, but their candidates were declared including the two of our seats. So, it's clear who broke the chain here.
"The fact that Congress has not taken initiative (the seat-sharing talks) well is clear. But why that is, is for the Congress to answer. We have fixed our priority which is to maximise anti-BJP votes. Now, Congress has to fix its priority. The Congress has to answer this," he said when asked if the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi had failed to take initiative and play the expected role for the Opposition alliance.
In the 2014 parliamentary election, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress won 34 seats in Bengal, the Congress four and the Left and the BJP two each.