An all-pervading stillness wraps the CPM headquarters in the capital's Gole Market. But in 2009, when the last general election took place, this very place was the hotbed of political strategising. It is the same story at the CPI headquarters, a few kilometers down the road. A small room in the five-storeyed building here is where several electoral pacts were once sifted.
A quiet has descended on the red citadels. Beyond their desolate appearance, the Left is hoping that the Narendra Modi-led NDA will fall short of the magic figure, paving the way for the Left to play a cardinal role in mobilising a non-Congress, non-BJP front at the Centre. CPM and CPI leaders exude confidence that the Modi "juggernaut" will halt way behind its goal of reaching Delhi.
"We are not talking of a third front before the polls. But if space opens up for a new coalition of secular and democratic forces after results, then we will certainly try to forge such a coalition," said veteran communist and former CPI general secretary AB Bardhan.
CPM polit bureau member S Ramachandran Pillai said that if the BJP-led alliance gets less than 230 seats, the Left will be in a position to rally together. "We have said that the third front will emerge only after the election. If the Left tally is at least 30, it will be in a position to bring together parties," he said.
For now, the Left has adopted a wait-and-watch approach as party sources admit its leaders are not even indulging in back-room talks, leave alone firming up alliances. "Let's wait for May 16," Left leaders said.
With Congress leaders sending signals of being open to doing business with it, the Left has hopes of reviving the 1996 scenario using its familiar "to keep the BJP out" line.
But, it all depends on the numbers, they admit. The Left itself should have the numerical tenacity to anchor a front. Bardhan and Pillai claim their strength in both West Bengal and Kerala will increase, and are dismissive of the BJP's claims that it will make noteworthy inroads into its strongholds.
Left leaders are also aware of the hurdles of putting together a motley combination of parties with multiple PM aspirants. It had barely started making attempts this time when it fell apart. The proposed pre-poll alliance with Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa's AIADMK also snapped in a clear hint that she wanted to keep her post-poll options open.
In 2009, Left had become the fulcrum of an anti-Congress, anti-BJP front, which included Mayawati. The front fell like a house of cards with the Left itself diminished in numbers to 24 in 2009 from a record 62 in 2004.
During the 2004 election, it was 8 Teenmurti Lane, the residence of then CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet, that became the hub of political drama as the Congress-led UPA government was formed with the Left extending outside support. Surjeet, the astute king-maker, brought the non-NDA parties together.
But, Left leaders admit that winning over the youth, the section Modi is trying to reach out to, will not be an easy task for it. "After the setback in socialist countries, we have to ideologically convince the youth.
Its easier to convince emotionally. But through our student organisations, we are trying to reach out to them," Pillai said.