Kolkata: While exuding confidence of getting an absolute majority on its own in the West Bengal elections, the main opposition Trinamool Congress says it still favours a "grand alliance" of secular and progressive forces to decimate the ruling Left Front.
"We are not merely hopeful. We are sure of winning an absolute majority, judging by the mood and pulse of the people and because of the Left Front`s misrule for over three decades," Trinamool leader Partha Chatterjeesaid.
"But we want a grand alliance as our leader (Mamata Banerjee) and our party have always respected the wishes of the people. The people want a grand alliance of all progressive and secular forces that want to defeat the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist)," Chatterjee said.
The Trinamool and the Congress, along with the smaller Socialist Unity Centre of India-Communist (SUCI-C), joined hands before the 2009 Lok Sabha election and bagged 26 of the state`s 42 seats, dealing a major blow to the Left Front that has ruled the state since June 1977.
Asked if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be a part of the proposed "grand alliance", Chatterjee, who is also leader of the opposition in the state assembly, shot back: "BJP is not part of us."
The 34 uninterrupted years of CPI-M rule has made the West Bengal government the longest surviving elected communist regime in the world, giving the Marxists a clout far larger than their actual appeal.
The CPI-M insiders admit they are facing the most serious challenge to their rule this time.
The Trinamool was an alliance partner of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance from 1998 to 2008 except in the 2001 assembly polls when it tied up with the Congress.
Asked how homogeneous would be a Trinamool-Congress alliance, he said: "The homogeneity is among the people of Bengal who want a greater people`s front to defeat the Marxists."
Last year, the Trinamool-Congress alliance broke up after they failed to reach a seat sharing agreement in the civic elections.
The 58-year-old politician, however, declined to comment on the seat sharing formula for the April-May polls, saying this responsibility rested with their leader and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Chatterjee, who began his political career as a student activist during the turbulent 70s, says that under the Left Front, the law and order situation has turned from bad to worse.
"Every day there is loss of life. Every day villagers are forced to leave their homes as they no longer support the Marxists. There is acute unemployment and a development problem."
Chatterjee said the top priority of the Trinamool Congress, if it comes to power, will be restoring peace and addressing the problems of unemployment and development.
"We have a short-term agenda and a long-term agenda. The first will be restoration of law and order. The long-term will be addressing problems of unemployment and development," said Chatterjee, who till the late 90s headed Andrew Yule. He left his lucrative corporate career to join the Trinamool in 2001.
What about the CPI-M`s allegation that Mamata Banerjee was a failed administrator? Chatterjee replied: "She has shown how things needed to be done. Her work as (railway) minister speaks for itself."
Chatterjee ripped apart the CPI-M-led Left Front government. "It is a government of non-performers. They have no right to say that our ministers of state (in the central government) are non-performers," he said.
"First let them give their marksheet, then we will give ours."