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Home > 2021 > What is left for the left in West Bengal? | Abhijit Ghosh

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 23, New Delhi, May 22, 2021

What is left for the left in West Bengal? | Abhijit Ghosh

Saturday 22 May 2021


by Abhijit Ghosh


This is the first time that West Bengal assembly will have no elected left representative since 1947. This is a big crisis for the left in West Bengal in particular and general in India. When Odisha, Assam, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Bihar have at least one left MLA, having none in one time main bastion of left must weaken the left movement in India. This leads us to interrogate what will be the future of the left in West Bengal.

Let us first briefly analyse the land slide victory of Mamata Banerjee for the consecutive three terms in West Bengal Assembly Election 2021. After the declaration of the results on second May, many arguments have been floating and written in a different medium. However, I completely subscribe to the view of polarisation that brings massive victory for Mamata Benerjee. I have analysed the results of 100 booths in different districts. This clearly shows the polarisation trend. There are around 30 per cent votes of Muslim in West Bengal. Simply TMC has captured more than 27 votes out of 30 votes. BJP secures more than 70 per cent votes in the Hindu dominated booth while TMC gets more than 70 per cent vote in Muslim dominated area. Even within a village the same pattern is observed in neighbouring booths. This is not surprising considering the characteristic of minority voting pattern. Minority will never vote for BJP. Therefore, there are two options left before the minority community- one TMC and secondly Left led Sangjukta Morcha. Minority votes for them who have prospect to win against BJP. Now, this depends on the prevailing political perspectives of the state. The last two years after the 2019 election a binary between TMC and BJP has captured the political arena of West Bengal. So the selection was easy for the minority community. The greater the emphasise BJP put to accentuate polarisation process the greater is the consolidation of the minority vote in favour of TMC. The remaining 70 votes, belonging to the Hindu community, have been divided among TMC, BJP, Sanjukta Morcha and others. BJP managed to bag 38 votes and TMC 20 votes out of 70 votes. The argument being put forward that fascist has been defeated is partially true. One should not forget that BJP has won 77 seats. Therefore, taking BJP as a political force lightly now may boomerang.

Under this binary circumstance, what will the left do to gain back its earlier strength in West Bengal? This is definitely going to be the toughest situation after 1947. However, it is not an impossible task for the left to gain back the position. I do not intend to prescribe medicines in this article. However, no prescription is effective if it is not applied properly. After the massacre, there is going to be a heated debate within the CPI (M). If not, then as a party, CPI (M) will be stagnant organisation.

Political Line

Debating over political line is not a new phenomenon in left parties. This is particularly revolved around the relationship with Congress. Since 1947 it has been going on and appears to be a never-ending process. After 2011, the defeat of left front in West Bengal fuels the debate on whether to go with Congress. The alliance of left with Congress in 2016 and 2021 in assembly election could not yield desirable success. It seems that the so-called congress voters did not cast their vote to the left. Rather left voters definitely casted their vote to congress particularly in 2016 responding to party call. This became clear when Congress voters consider TMC as an immediate friend politically. Secondly, the most dramatic incidence was the joining of Indian Secular Front the front in the front. The certain emergence of ISF as a partner of Left could not convince the people of West Bengal. Even workers of left parties were confused regarding the alliance. The difference of Muslims along the religious line could not consolidate the Muslim vote. ISF led by Abbas Siddiquie popularly known as Bhaijan could not attract Muslim vote except in one or two seats. Rather the process of consolidation of Muslim votes in favour of TMC got accelerated. However, the big question is still haunting. Why did the left make an alliance with ISF? This front has no previous history. Rather, some lectures delivered by Abbas Siddiqui have been considered to be highly reactionary. Now some good words cannot be the basis of any alliance. This appears to me an immature political decision. However, the objective of CPI (M) was to break the binary. During the election CPI (M-L) put the theory of lesser and greater evil. But all the left parties clearly declare BJP as the main enemy. Then, what would CPI (M) led left front do to defeat BJP? Should not they contest the election or request Mamata Banerjee for a few seats? Therefore, the logic of CPI (M-L) was not very clear. Even during the last few years, the agony of people due to TMC worker has been increased many folds. Therefore, the great alliance in West Bengal is an absurd idea.

This is high time to review critically political line in West Bengal. CPI(M) should not waste time on benefit or loss in making an alliance. Rather they should concentrate to strengthen its own organisation with a concrete political programme. The different issues, be it the question of communalism or the issue of labour class or small and marginal farmer needs to be addressed aggressively. The continuous mass movement with a clear class perspective is the call of the hour. The movement needs to be initiated from the higher committee. The political programme should not be imposed by higher committee, rather participatory in nature.

Organisational Restructure

Once, a fairy-tail type of organisation of CPI (M) has been eroding over the years. However, the party still have a good number of dedicated hardworking workers. But the bureaucracy has entered into the organisational functioning since the early years of this century. This has negative implication in the development of party structure. The democratic environment within the party needs to be restored. The higher committee will have to ensure this allowing open discussion within the party meeting. If members feel that he/she will be targeted by the leader of the higher committee, members will be refrain from free discussion. The implication is quite clear. A genuine candidate will not be promoted in the higher committee in the party structure. Personal choice will dominate in electing members of the party committee. Perhaps CPI (M) is the only party having such huge numbers of dedicated workers. Recent activities of Red Volunteers in covid 19 pandemic situation prove this. However, if this huge force is not politically armed, nothing will be yielded politically. Even within the party, class consciousness has been faded away. Without having a class idea of party workers, a communist party cannot survive. To intensify class base struggle, the party needs class conscious workers. 

Therefore party should continuously monitor to prepare its workers politically equipped. CPI(M), West Bengal should have a clear whole timer policy to retain whole timer. The wage given to the whole timer should match at least with subsistence level.


BJP has missed a golden opportunity by a wide margin in West Bengal Assembly Election. But RSS must be happy. In last few years, RSS has been running thousands of its camps in West Bengal. This has been boosted after 2011. Thus the claim of defeat of fascist force is not completely true. This compels the left to rethink their organisational structure and its political programme. Over the years, literacy movement, science programme, cultural front, library movement have been neglected. In a time when RSS is trying to alter the basic fabric of West Bengal Society, these alternative social movements may be instrumental in expanding the left base. Even frontal mass organisation, peasant organisation (Krishak Sabha) and trade union need to introduce organisational programme that will address the improvement of the standard of living of peasants and workers. Without social movement, it is not possible to combat RSS and its partners. In this connection, other organisation having clear progressive agenda needs to be engaged into the movement. This solidarity will strengthen the peoples’ movement.

Having no MLA must have discouraging elements. But the strength of the left in West Bengal is its dedicated workers. It is up to the higher leadership how they will build movement having clear class understanding. To break the binary, it requires a Dhamaka, a political dhamaka to build an alternative perspective. This will also break the prevailing binary perspective of the state. This calls for to relook to its own political line. Unnecessary engagement of the party on whom to go with, it should rather concentrate to build up its own base. It is wrong to write off left in West Bengal. A few corrections based on its own agenda, left can reiterate.

(Author: Dr. Abhijit Ghosh is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Mahatma Gandhi College, Lalpur, Purulia. Earlier he was Assistant Professor of Economics at A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna. He may be contacted at this email: abhijitghosh2007[at]

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