New Delhi: The CPI(M) has in the last four days reopened more than 150 of its offices in West Bengal which, it alleged, had been taken over forcibly by the ruling Trinamool Congress after the Left was ousted from power in the state in 2011.
Party offices in Bankura, Purulia, Coochbehar, Bardhaman, Hooghly, North 24 Parganas and Howrah among others have now not only been retaken by the CPI(M) cadres, but the party symbol is also being painted on them and party flags are flying atop the buildings, CPI(M) leaders claimed.
A Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member said the party was reclaiming its offices because it was the first time since 2011 that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's TMC was "weak and vulnerable".
The TMC, which had won 35 of the 42 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, managed only 22 this time as the BJP gained significantly, improving its strength from two to 18.
Though the TMC alleged that the BJP, which has emerged as the main opposition in the state in the Lok Sabha election, was helping the Left, the CPI(M) leaders denied it.
"We have recaptured our offices which had been taken away from us by the TMC. We have been able to do this because TMC has been weakened, its erosion is clear. Our people had been preparing to take over the offices," senior CPI(M) leader and Politburo member Nilotpal Basu told PTI.
The state is not new to such muscle-flexing by cadres of rival parties post elections.
In 2011, following the loss of the Left Front in Assembly elections, its party offices were allegedly occupied by Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress whose activists replaced the hammer and sickle symbol with the TMC's twin flowers.
TMC leader Sisir Adhikari admitted that the Left has reclaimed some of its offices.
"The CPI(M) has managed to get back some of its party offices in the state with the help of the BJP. The BJP has got some seats and now they are using force and violence. They are definitely helping them. But it’s only a handful offices, nothing great," Adhikari said.
However, CPI(M) leader Basu dismissed claims that they were being helped by the BJP.
"BJP's IT cell is running a propaganda saying that the BJP is helping the CPI(M) to reclaim its offices in the state. It is a complete lie," he said.
BJP's Howrah Town district President Surajit Saha told PTI that there was no instruction from the party to help the CPI(M) reclaim their offices but conceded that TMC offices were being taken over by rival parties.
"We have received no such instruction from the party. However, I have heard that in many places TMC offices are being taken over by the CPI(M) and BJP. These things happens post poll," said Saha when asked if the BJP cadres were helping the CPI (M) to "reclaim" their party offices.
A senior CPI(M) Politburo member took a jibe at the TMC, saying it was reaping the "fruits of colluding with the BJP".
After the polls, the BJP has been systematically ransacking TMC offices in the state. Clashes have happened and in the chaos, the CPI(M) has recaptured its offices which had been earlier captured by the TMC goons. Why should the BJP help us? We have got them back on our own strength," another senior Politburo member told PTI.