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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 21, May 14, 2011

Mamata propels Historic Change in West Bengal

Editorial

Tuesday 24 May 2011, by SC

The counting of votes for elections to the five State Assemblies now being over, it’s time to analyse the outcome.

The results of the State Assembly elections have dealt a stunning blow to the Left establish-ments, notably the CPM whose present-day juvenile leaders only about three years ago were harbouring the grand illusion of running the Union Government without sharing any responsibility in its functioning by becoming its integral part. They have been forced to bite the dust in West Bengal where they were in power for as many as 34 years at a stretch, that is, since 1977. This was not entirely unexpected but the magnitude of the defeat has come as a shock for them. Whereas in the 2006 State Assembly polls the Left Front had won as many as 235 seats (48.51 per cent votes) and the combined Opposition had a strength of 53 seats (41.35 per cent votes), this time, according to latest figures, the Trinamul Congress-Congress combine has won (or is winning) 228 of a total number of 294 seats in the Assembly with the TMC alone energing victorious in about 180 seats (the vote share of the combine being 49 per cent) and the Left Front has secured a mere 61 seats (the CPM itself getting around 40 seats) with 41 per cent votes. This is essentially a victory of Trinamul Congress chief and Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee whose bold, courageous and tenacious struggle against the LF in general and CPM in particular has finally borne fruit. For her and the people of West Bengal, the TMC-Congress alliance’s victory has been both historic and momentous. In fact but for her the Left could not have been humiliated.

The humiliation is complete with CM Buddha-deb Bhattacharjee suffering defeat by over 16,000 votes, and his Finance Minister Ashim Dasgupta and Industries Minister Nirupam Sen also losing decisively. Several other Ministers (as many as 27) have met the same fate. Only a few of Buddha’s Cabinet colleagues could manage to survive the anti-Left gale. What does this indicate? It graphically brings out the massive wrath of the West Bengal public against the tyranny and misgovernance/maladministration of the Buddhadeb dispensation as well as callousness to people’s problems on the part of those enjoying the fruits of power for 34 years.

Mamata Banerjee has aptly described the landslide victory of her party and the Congress as a victory for democracy. She has also characterised May 13 as a day of success of the second freedom struggle. She cannot be held guilty of exaggeration. For the first time in 34 years the State witnessed the assertion of the masses’ genuine democratic aspirations—the electorate was freely able to choose the people’s representatives without fear or intimidation/coercion in most parts of the State. For the first time in 34 yearts the people could breathe the fresh air of freedom that had been snatched away from them by the CPM cadres indulging in rampant atrocities (especially in the countryside) in a bid to impose what was aptly mentioned in Bengal as dalatantra whose English equivalent is ‘partycracy’. The crass and crude manner of ensuring ‘partycracy’ cannot be explained in words, it has to be comprehended in full measure as the people in the State did and silently suffered its dire consequences. Then came a time when they could no longer quietly suffer and rose up in revolt; that is exactly what has happened now. There is not a shadow of doubt that this ‘partycracy’ cannot be reconciled with democracy—only by completely discarding it can the CPM hope to transform itself into a truly democratic party from the mafia organisation it has been turned into while in power. In fact this is what makes West Bengal distinct from all other parts of the country. That is why the defeat of the CPM-led Front (whose activities in the last five years testified to its non-Left character) is a victory for democracy and it is this development which has ushered in freedom for the downtrodden, persecuted, oppressed sections of the population (whose cause the CPM had once upheld before becoming a prisoner of vested interests) epitomised in Mamata’s eloquent slogan of ‘Ma, Maati, Manush’.

Can the CPM draw proper lessons from this rout? It is difficult to hazard a guess as of now for it is akin to asking if the leopard can change its spots. Even after such a phenomenal defeat the CPM leaders in the State (by the way, its central leaders too are no better) have not shed an iota of arrogance that they exuded in abundance during their stay in power all these years. Humility is a term which seems to be an anathema in their party lexicon. Blinded by their ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude they are barely in a position to realise that the more they display their sense of arrogance the greater will be their alienation from the people at large. One only hopes that once out of power they would engage in honest self-interospection (though that possibility appears to be remote as of now and there is no precedent on that score to fall back on), and try to fathom how the person whom they had sought to liquidate in the past (Mamata was mercilessly attacked by CPM goons with the intent to kill her quite sometime ago) has become instrumental for their nemesis. They should also examine how Buddha’s ill-advised pro-corporate sector line isolated the party from its natural constituency, that is, the toiling peasantry in particular (as hinted by one of the few Ministers who could win despite the Mamata wave).

The CPM-led Left Democratic Front has also lost power in Kerala but there it has not been humiliated. Rather, its political adversary, the Congress-led United Democratic Front, has just about managed to scrape through on the basis of the anti-incumbency factor which, however, the LDF was able to ward off in large measure due to the personality and stature of that man of probity in public life leading the State Government, V.S. Achuthanandan. Yet the Achuthanandan phenomenon and his tireless election campaign couldn’t eventually save the LDF because (i) Achuthanandan’s bickerings with the CPM’s State Secretary Pinrayi Vijayan (due to which the latter at the initial stages even refused to give him a seat to contest the polls) could not be kept under wraps; and (ii) the Congress’ ties with the IUML played a vital role in ensuring the UDF’s success.

As for the other States, the most striking results have come from Tamil Nadu where the ruling DMK-Congress alliance has failed to stand up to the Jayalalitha-led AIADMK alliance which has recorded a huge victory by getting 201 seats as against the DMK-led Front’s paltry 31 in the 234-member State legislature. This is directly attributable to the scams afflicting the DMK—the most glaring being the one connected with the 2G spectrum that has resulted in former Union Telecom Minister A. Raja’s detention and DMK MP and party supremo M. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi’s interrogation by the CBI. Corruption and nepotism are the two evils that have conspired to bring about the downfall of the DMK Government. But this should also serve as a warning to Jayalalitha since she too had been a victim of these traits while in power in the past.

In neighbouring Puducherry the NR Congress (set up by N.R. Rangaswamy following his sudden removal from the Congress) has emerged successful at the hustings and decided to forge an understanding with the AIADMK for government formation; this can cost the Congress dearly. After the electoral setback in Tamil Nadu, the Punducherry result has come as quite a surprise for the Congress thus enhancing its discomfiture.

Only in Assam has the Congress won a resounding victory for the third time. This has been brought about due to the disunity in the ranks of the Opposition on one side and the expectations of a return to peace and the end of insurgency (following the government’s initiation of talks with a large chunk of ULFA extremists who have now opted for negotiations) on the other. The Congress has been able to effectively exploit these factors to its electoral advantage.

Overall, however, it is the assertion of democracy in West Bengal by the people reposing faith in Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee alongside dealing a severe blow to the unlimited arrogance of the CPM which enjoyed unbridled power for 34 long years that is the highlight of these elections. It is time to bring to justice all the CPM cadres and leaders who in the period between 1977 and 2009 are learnt to have been allegedly responsible for an estimated 55,408 political killings and 72,600 incidents of rape while probing the enormous assets the party has been able to amass over this time-span. These steps would also go a long way towards reinforcing democracy in the State and thus effect genuine change the people have been yearning for of late.

May 13 S.C.

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