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Mainstream, Vol XLVII No 24, May 30, 2009

Election Results: Some Reflections

Tuesday 2 June 2009, by Amitava Mukherjee


As expected, the results of the Lok Sabha election have led to revolts against Prakash Karat and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee within the CPM as well as the Left Front. Although the CPM leadership tried to put up a smart face, yet the chasm was too deep to paper over as an overwhelming majority of the West Bengal leadership laid the blame for electoral defeat squarely at the door of Prakash Karat. Somnath Chatterjee openly called for his ouster, a sentiment which is shared by many in the CPM’s Bengal State Secretariat and State Committee. This is nothing new. The Bengal unit had already come round to the conclusion, quite a few weeks before the polling, that the electoral prospect was not good and a good number of top level leaders had been preparing the ground for holding Karat responsible.To be honest, never in the history of the communist movement in India, a General Secretary has done more harm to the rationale and prospect of the party.

The mess is principally due to the fact that both in Delhi as well as in Kolkata the CPM has thrown up leaders who are mostly from the students’ wing of the party and therefore highly factional in outlook, having very little experience of any mass movement. Moreover in West Bengal these short-statured leaders had to face Mamata Banerjee whose entire political career has moved through mass movements. All through his stint as the Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has given a pathetic account of himself. Now the revolt against him has come out in the open even from amongst the Left Front partners.

Even in the midst of such a terrible rout both in Kerala and in West Bengal, over-cleverness, which is the principal hall-mark of Communists all over the world, was very much in evidence in the manners and utterings of the CPM leaders. Biman Bose, who is now reported to be extremely nervous about the Trinamul’s demand for the sacking of the Buddhadeb Government, tried to play down Mamata’s role by saying that the people of West Bengal have followed the wave that has been blowing over the country in support of the Congress. Biman’s position is understandable. Now even junior Left Front partners are questioning his ability to lead any political conglomeration. So long he was known to be a camp follower of Prakash Karat but turned out to be one of those who held Karat responsible as soon as the election results came out.

In the days to come a debate is certain to take place whether the precedence of 1977, when Congress governments in several States were forced to resign in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s defeat in the Lok Sabha election, still holds any relevance for West Bengal and Kerala in 2009. Facts, however, reveal that as per the latest Lok Sabha poll results, the Opposition block in the State has won from 193 Assembly constituencies while the Left Front is ahead in only 101. More ominous for the Left is the fact that for the first time since 1977 the share of votes for the combined Opposition has overtaken that of the Left Front. While the Congress, Trinamul, SUC combination has bagged 45.12 per cent votes, the share of the Front is only 42.61 per cent. There has been a four per cent increase in the number of voters compared to the last election andm according to observers, this chunk has probably gone in favour of the Opposition.

The results for the CPM have been equally devastating in Kerala where the party-led Left Democatic Front (LDF) has been able to win only four seats. Interestingly, the LDF had lost in Palakkad and Cannanore, home districts of Prakash Karat and Pinarayi Vijayan, the CPM State General Secretary and a Polit-Bureau member. The CPM had to pay a heavy price for its questionable association with the People’s Democratic Front of Abdul Naser Madani who was the principal accused in the Coimbatore blast case that had targeted L.K. Advani. This alliance cost the CPM both ways—the Muslims disliked this association with a overtly communal outfit and voted en masse for the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) while a Hindu backlash took place at the other end which benefited the Congress immensely.

That even the smaller parties of the Left Front in West Bengal have developed an immense dislike for the CPM becomes clear from the assertions of Nandagopal Bhattacharjee, whose party, the CPI, has been accused by the Trinamul Congress of winning the Ghatal Lok Sabha constituency by questionable means. Nandagopal has accused the State Ministers and Front constituents of arrogance and corruption. Nobody is in any kind of doubt as to the principal target of his accusations. Leaving the issue of corruption apart, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee can certainly be charged with arrogance and an extremely insufficient knowledge of present-day social dynamics.

Buddhadeb is now trying to duck in front of the Singur-Nandigram issue but some Front Ministers tore him apart at the last Cabinet meeting over this question. For any political observer it is always a bit difficult to understand why the CPM chose such a suicidal course of aligning with the capitalists and not only leaving in the lurch poor and toiling agriculturists but also letting loose inhuman tortures on them when they resisted forcible acquisition of their land by the West Bengal Government.

Perhaps this is the real face of communism all over the world and its destiny is also fully visible. Otherwise how could the West Bengal Chief Minister proudly assert inside the State Assembly that he is ready to act as a ‘dalal’ of any industrialist? Or consider his almost foolhardy statement after a good number of people in Nandigram had fallen to police bullets that they (the people of Nandigram) have been paid (back) in the same coin. He often goes to the extent of saying that he would break the heads of those who stand in the way of his government’s industrialisation ventures.


In its pursuit of increasing the number of party followers the CPM has compromised on quality. This was evident in the 1960s when in the wake of the division of the CPI, a good number of people having questionable credentials found berths in the leadership structure of the CPM. The result was that communist politics was soon reduced to vile propaganda before the 1967 and 1969 general elections. That the CPM is now mired in a cesspool is a direct result of a terrible downturn in the quality of leadership in both Delhi and Kolkata; the leaders failed to realise that before trumpeting the drum of capitalists and wooing them back to West Bengal they would have to explain to the people the reason for flights of capital from the State for nearly three decades of Marxist rule and the character of industries they like to set up now. In a very revealing interview to a private vernacular TV channel Professor Amit Bhaduri, the internationally famous economist, had opined that while the now abandoned Tata car project at Singur was slated to generate around 6000 number of jobs, it was, at the same time, all set to take away 40,000 jobs from those who depended on the land (where the project was to come up) for their livelihood.

The results of the election have established undoubtedly that the people of West Bengal have rejected, nay disbelieved, the CPM’s main campaign plank that the withdrawal of the Tatas from Singur, in the face of opposition from the Trinamul Congress, has delivered a crippling blow to the State’s developmental prospects. That the younger generation of voters has turned away from the Left is a further cause of worry for them. Analyses of election results point out that even in Kolkata and its surrounding regions the middle and upper middle class have refused to accept the CPM as their own party although for more than a decade it has been trying very hard to erase the tag of a party which is pro-agriculturist and pro-factory worker and instead trying to get close to finance capital.

The just concluded parliamentary election has turned out to be a near-watershed in the recent political history of West Bengal as a complete overhaul of the Bengali mindset has taken place in this context. Bengal’s social life has suffered for too long a time because of the pro-Left attitude of the average Bengali mind which has now seen through its past mistakes that resulted in the vilification of noble characters like Bidhan Chandra Roy, Prafulla Chandra Sen and Atulya Ghosh. In their place some political pygmies, who hardly deserve any mention in public life, were put on high pedestals. But for the first time in many years an overwhelming section of the Bengali intelligentsia came out in the open against state terrorism on the poor, spoke out against camaraderie with bandit capitalism and imposition of party rule in every walk of life.

A large number of people of India might be illiterate but they are not certainly uneducated and their political verdicts have always been great levellers. Indira Gandhi learnt it in 1977. Prakash Karat and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee have got a taste of it in 2009. It must be remembered that Buddhadeb’s policy on Singur and Nandigram had the official backing of the Karat-led party Polit-Bureau. At the same time Karat’s daydream of a Third Front has gone haywire.

But Mamata should also be cautious.There is no reason to believe that the character of the government at the Centre will be different from the previous one in any significant extent. Already there are at least two persons in the new Cabinet whose proximity to the Western capitalist block is too well known. This government will continue to look towards the USA for approval. Mamata may have to fight a hard battle if she wants to remain true to the values and sentiments on which she fought the CPM over Singur and Nandigram.

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