Monday, May 16, 2011

Was The Left Fated To Fail In West Bengal?

The Communist Party of India ( Marxist) [C PI (M)]-led Left Front's debacle in the State Assembly polls in West Bengal has left many wondering not only about the future of the CPI(M), but also of Left politics in general in West Bengal as well as in other states like Kerala in India. The routing of the party's 34- year sway in West Bengal at the hands of the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress ( TMC) seems to have shaken it at the base. The major partner of the Left Front, CPI (M) won only in 40 seats, down from 176 last time. It even lost this time by two seats to Congress, which won 42 seats and played a crucial role in TMC's victory. How could that unthinkable happen? Is it the charisma of TMC leader Mamata or failure of the Left Front to deliver that has gone into the party's ouster from West Bengal? The rallying cry of TMC before the election was one of change, while that of the Left Front was to continue the status quo with the Front in place. Mamata's call for change had certainly a better appeal than that of the Left Front, which claimed people's continued support for the incumbent. Evidently, such claim failed to create any appeal to the public. They might have become tired of seeing the Left Front so long in power. Moreover, the Left had also shifted markedly from its earlier hard-nosed ideological stance in politics and its commitments to its constituency. The winds of global trend for free market economy and private capital also influenced Left Front's policies. The Singur episode was a glaring instance of its unabashed pandering to the big capital of Tata in Favour industrialisation in West Bengal. Though it was part of its pragmatic tilt in politics, its traditional constituency started to look at it with suspicion. To them, it was a clear indication of capitulation and political opportunism. Though China, with the Communist Party having strong grip on society and politics, has succeeded in wooing international capital and achieving phenomenal development in the economy, one has to keep in mind that its government does not change through elections as practiced in the parliamentary democracies in India and in other countries that follow British or other Western models. So, the voters there are free to change their mind and exercise their will through voting the government they are not happy with out of power. That may be one of the reasons that the Left Front's experiment with capitalism has foundered on the electoral rock. Some activists of the All India Students Association (AISA), the student front of CPI (M), for example, have also expressed similar views about the fall of CPI ( M)-led Left government in West Bengal. Speaking to pro-Left paper, they maintained that the Left Front's increasing shift to right-wing politics did lead to their debacle. The CPI (M) had been serving the purpose of the ruling class and the privileged, the observed. The Left not only distanced themselves from their original politico-ideological agenda, but were also not willing to admit that, they added. In that case, it was not surprising that their traditional voters were totally disillusioned with such role reversal of CPI (M). Added to this is the arrogance of power and sway that the party has been enjoying over the decades. Success had possibly gone to its head and that has been reflected even in its electoral rallying cry. Another issue that might have told upon the constituents' patience is the dual role of their favourite party -- pandering to the Congress at the centre, while playing the rival's role at the state level. Meanwhile, there has been a visible crack in the assured vote bank provided by the Muslim minority in the state of West Bengal. And the Trinamul Congress (TMC) of Mamata Banerjee, on the other hand, has tried to fill in the gaps in the voters' base created by the Leftist party. Mamata aggressively made inroads into Muslim voters' base and evidently that has paid dividends in the long run. The media did certainly play a big role. In fact, majority of the print as well as the electronic media also carried out an orchestrated propaganda against the Left Front government and in favour of TMC. There is another dimension to the Left Front government's humiliating defeat. That has very much to do with governance. It is not only the opponents, even party insiders are pointing at the issue as well as allegations of corruption against it. All these issues have militated against the Left Front's prospect in the state assembly polls. Now that Mamata Banerjee has swept the electoral board, it will now be her turn to deliver according to the promises she made before the elections. Whether she is a nine-day wonder in West Bengal's theatre of politics, time will tell. It will now be the turn of the partners of Left front, the CPI (M), in particular, to go through a soul searching and identify the reasons for its defeat. The fall of communist-led government in its traditional strongholds like West Bengal and Kerala in India is certainly a message for all Leftists in Bangladesh and other countries of South Asia where the communists still maintain a strong presence.