West Bengal's opposition Left Front, which has been steadily losing electoral ground, received a further jolt to its revival plans after one of its constituents - now known as the Samajwadi Party (SP) - virtually broke away by fielding its own candidates for the Lok Sabha poll.
The SP, earlier known as the West Bengal Socialist Party (WBSP), was a constituent of the Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Front from 1982. But the party, in accordance with its central leadership's directions, has announced candidates for four seats in the state and plans to contest another three-four seats.
"Our party's central leadership had resolved to field candidates across the country, contesting the polls on its own. Accordingly we have announced the candidates for the state. We have plans to field more candidates (in Bengal) which we will be announcing soon," state party general secretary Kiranmoy Nanda told IANS.
"Being a part of the Front doesn't mean we can't look after our own party. We don't need to beg for seats from them. If it means walking away from the Front, so be it," said Nanda, who was fisheries minister in the Left Front government from 1982 to 2011.
The SP had earlier sought a couple of seats from the Front, but decided to go it alone after being rebuffed.
The move, which comes days after the LF announced its candidates for the 42 seats from the state, may also ruin the Left's endeavour to secure a non-Congress and non-BJP alliance.
Earlier representatives of a host of Left and regional parties, including the likes of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and CPI-M general Secretary Prakash Karat, held a meeting to give shape to the Third Front.
Mitra noted that the Third Front was not an alliance, but rather a joint commitment by the parties to dethrone the Congress led-UPA and prevent the BJP spearheaded NDA from coming to power.
CPI-M leader Mohammad Salim, however, felt the move will not have any adverse effect on the Front's electoral fortunes and accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of engineering the break-up.
"Historically, the party has been changing colours. Splitting from the Janata Party to become the WBSP and then joining the SP, later withdrawing and then rejoining, they have been continuously changing their stand.
"Their (SP) move to field candidates has been fuelled by the Trinamool, which without caring about legitimacy, has been trying everything to intimidate its opponents," Salim, a Front candidate from Raiganj, told IANS.
Raiganj (North Dinajpur) is one of the four constituencies where the SP has fielded candidates, the others being Maldaha Uttar (Malda), Birbhum and Barasat (North 24 Parganas).
Ever since it was dethroned by the Trinamool in 2011, the Front has fared poorly in electoral battles - be it at the rural level or for the civic bodies or even the by-polls to assembly seats.
Political analyst Anil Kumar Jana believes the SP's departure days before the polls will adversely affect the fortunes of the Front.
"The SP's departure signifies all is not well within the Front, which has been trying hard to revive its electoral fortunes. With just a few days to go for the polls, it has come at a bad time," said Jana of Midnapore's Vidyasagar University.
Meanwhile, the Trinamool, which prides itself for its grassroots politics with "Maa, Mati Manush" (Mother, People, Soil) as its slogan, has come in for sharp criticism over its decision to field celebrities for the Lok Sabha polls.
With the likes of Bengali actor Moon Moon Sen and soccer icon Baichung Bhutia, Banerjee rolled out a star-filled list of candidates, including people from apolitical backgrounds.
While veteran Congress leader Somen Mitra asked whether these celebrities will be able to spare time for the people leaving behind their respective fields, the party's state unit president, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, questioned the lack of politicos in the list.
"Why does a party which calls itself Maa Maati Manush, have to rely on star power? Why aren't there people from the soil, what happened to people from political backgrounds?" asked Chowdhury.
Meanwhile, known for her glamorous on-screen image, Moon Moon Sen, has become a subject of ridicule on social networking sites after she said: "It's very difficult to look glamorous in summer", while talking about her plans to campaign for the April-May polls.
"It's very difficult to look glamorous in summer but I'll see what I can do. There are things that I'll need for travelling so that I can look fresh when I go visit the people," Sen had said post her nomination even as she opined her husband (Bharat Dev Varma) would have been an "ideal candidate for politics".
(Anurag Dey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)