India’s first Prime Minister and the first General Secretary of the (undivided) Communist Party of India must be chuckling in the great beyond reserved for leaders ahead of their time

. The subject of their amusement would be the irony of history which has brought forth an alliance for the forthcoming West Bengal Assembly poll between the family-run rump of the Indian National Congress which the former led with distinction for decades, and an increasingly irrelevant Left which the latter made an epic effort to shape into ~ in effect if not nomenclature ~ an Indian social democrat party not beholden to Soviet-inspired doctrinaire socialism.

For their sin in arguing for an alliance or at least an understanding between these two progressive forces, as it were, Jawaharlal Nehru was pilloried by the conservatives within the Congress for being a radical socialist and PC Joshi was hounded and humiliated by the hard Left as a revisionist.

Today, the intellectual and political pygmies in charge of what remains of the Congress and Left Front have quite shamelessly albeit with a veneer of sophistry decided to come together to fight the Trinamool Congress and a resurgent BJP in Bengal.

Of course, the Congress and Left Front had an electoral adjustment in the state for the 2016 Assembly poll too, but it is clear that this time around it is more of a political-ideological alliance and not only an electoral exigency. If it were not for the Kerala factor where the Congress and Left are the principal contenders for power, this would be a template which could very possibly be replicated countrywide; indeed, it may still come to pass sans Kerala if the BJP’s exponential growth continues apace.

In West Bengal, however, immediate gains from the tie-up are likely to be limited. The Left Front, which has borne the brunt of the Trinamool Congress’ intimidatory tactics over the past decade, may not be unhappy if it manages to stem the haemorrhaging of its voter base; the BJP manages to unseat the ruling party which is likely to crumble without the ability to dispense patronage, and it has a clear ideological opponent in the saffron party to take on in 2026.

For the Congress, which is looking to protect its pockets of influence in the state and get the numbers to send a couple of candidates to the Rajya Sabha, the alliance would also serve the purpose of placing the Congress-Left at the core of a potential national anti-BJP front. All this, however, could change overnight if the joker-in-the-pack scenario unfolds for the alliance; which is to say neither the TMC nor the BJP has the numbers on its own.

The Congress, in that situation, is likely to ally with Ms Mamata Banerjee and the Left, in turn, would extract its pound of flesh by ensuring the Congress is confined to the supporting cast of any national Opposition grouping while the CPIM along with anti-BJP regional parties calls the shots. And the Nehru-Joshi effort would be undermined yet again.