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Thinking about the defeat of the Left Front in West Bengal Assembly elections, May 2011 May 23, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , trackback

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

On Friday, 12 May, the 34-year old local Kremlin in West Bengal, ruled by a Left Front, led by a Stalinist Communist Party, was pulled down by a straight-talking, straight-forward, simple woman from a lower middle class family of Kalighat, Kolkata. This woman is most unusual to Indian politics: she neither brings a family name to politics (as does Sonia Gandhi), nor did she have a political mentor (as did the dalit leader Mayavati). She is Mamata Banerjee, the leader of Trina Mool Congress (TMC). Soon, she will give up her job as the Railways Minister in the Central Government and walk into the Writers’ Buildings, the hub of government power in West Bengal, where she was pulled by the hair and thrown out in 1993 by the police for protesting in front of the then chief minister, Jyoti Basu’s, office. Although this was not the only time she was physically beaten by the hired goondas of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) (Mamata’s head was fractured in 1991 by a CPI(M) thug), she will have a broad smile on her face when taking the chief ministerial seat, I am sure. This is because she has, at last, succeeded in her often single-handed, decades-long struggle to overthrow a Left Front that came to power in 1977 in a landslide victory.  Politically, it is an important event. But it is more significant because, in the process of overthrowing the Communists, she has redefined contemporary Bengali ethnic identity, loosening the grip of the urban-based, dhoti-clad, intellectual middle class bhadralok ideologues on the state politics.

As noted, Mamata is exceptional among the female political leaders in India in that she has had no political mentor, no well-known political father, husband or brother, family connections or cash-rich parents. Unlike almost all other female political leaders, she neither dons super-expensive coarse clothes from Fabindia or Handloom House, nor does she wear a trademark red dot to proclaim herself as a protectorate of some male. Mamata has come up the political ranks, much like Julia Gillard, through student politics and became the General-Secretary of the All-India Youth Congress. In 1984, she was elected to the Parliament beating a veteran leader from the communist stronghold seat of Jadavpur in South Kolkata. The firebrand woman also speaks plainly, not the sophisticated tongue that one expects from a Bhadramahila, a typical genteel woman that a Bengali woman is generally expected to be, and is popularly known by the affectionate name ‘Didi’ – the elder sister – to all her followers in West Bengal.

In a conventional Bengali way, this way of addressing her brings Mamata closer to those who work for her. Thus, it is no wonder that her ‘Unique Selling Point’ was ‘Ma-Mati-Manush’ (Mother-Earth-People), her colour is green (as against the Communist red), and her numerous impromptu and organised speeches have all been about connecting with ordinary people with ordinary dreams. In fact, TMC stands for ‘Grassroots’ Congress and was established by her In 1997 when resigned from Congress, and established the party in retaliation to the lack of will of the then Congress party leaders in West Bengal to put up a real fight and for behaving like ‘water melons’ (green outside, but red inside), or as stooges of the CPI(M). During the last few years, as West Bengal’s politics focussed more on land, Mamata seized the political opportunity by putting up a strong opposition to the establishment of Special Economic Zones and forcible land acquisition for industrialization. She also took the opportunity of the poor recognition by the Left Front leaders of the pitiful state of lower castes and the Muslims in the West Bengal; issues that came to the fore from reports such as Pratichi (sponsored by the Nobel Prize winner economist, Professor Amartya Sen) and Sachaar Committee (set up by the Central Government). Muslims, for example, comprise 25 per cent of West Bengal’s population; they are, however, almost invisible in the public life of the state and are more heavily represented among the poor than in other states of India. Despite listing as many as a hundred ‘Other Backward Castes’ or OBC groups, the Left front had shied of exhausting the full quota of 27 per cent reservations. Thus, the Left Front continued play the violin of ‘class’, alienating the lower castes, Muslims and rural women voters moved away in anger from the Left ideology.

Land (and rights over land) indeed is at the heart of politics in riverine West Bengal. From the large, undivided Bengal (which in the days of the Bengal Presidency extended from Chittagong to upper Gangetic Plains), today’s West Bengal state has been carved out by repeatedly cutting it smaller and smaller. ‘Separatist’ movements are currently underway in several parts of the state. The small state has the highest density of population in India and one of the highest in the world. Historically, land came to be associated with great social power and prestige in Bengal. The importance of land in this state is rooted in a number of historical and geographical factors: the Permanent Settlement of 1793 (which created a gentry of absentee landlords), riverbank erosion, flooding and waterlogging in this ‘moribund’ part of Bengal delta, the decline in older industries such as jute and tea, the strategic location of the state, and the primacy of metropolitan Calcutta. Control over land – whether before or after the independence – thus became the key to social status and identity in rural areas. During the Partition of India, the state suffered immensely from refugee influx and poor resettlement of the streams of immigrants that continue unabated till today. The significance of giving land rights to peasants was well understood by the Communist Party in West Bengal. Throughout its history, it had tried to entrench its support-base in rural areas through peasant movements – from tebhaga andolan to bargadaar registration and the establishment of a functioning panchayat raj. At the same time, the Communist movement also spread its tentacles amongst the workers in the factories and the collieries. The educated middle classes of West Bengal joined new movements such as the West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association and All Bengal (school) Teachers Association.

It, therefore, took most of the city-based intellectuals by surprise when the CPI(M) dominated Left Front used brutal police force to acquire land from small peasant farmers to assist capitalist groups and corporations for industrial development. The use of force reminded them of the vicious ways the radical Naxalbari movement was suppressed in early 1970s, and the anger came out in a number of spontaneous agitations in the last few years. These urban intellectuals put up a scathing critique of the ruling government for its poor track record of land grabbing in Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh. But the frustration against the Left front did not remain concentrated only among the urban middle-classes. During the last decades of its existence, slow erosion of the new political power base in rural areas was unavoidable. This power base – the Left had thought – had been entrenched through land reforms, creating a ‘new middle-class’ in the villages. It is these rural voters, that everyone seemed to think have come to dominate the politics of rural West Bengal, who had turned away from the Left, washing away its three-and-a-half decades of rule. Ideological leaders who sat in Delhi and dictated state policies had no inkling of the tide that had risen against them. It is no wonder that the Left Front is now at a loss to explain the defeat.

Part of the explanation of its debacle can be sought in the schizophrenic identity that the Left Front developed over the years – bhadraloks ruling the Front, educated middle-class babus who were also radical ideologues, but who thought paternalistically about the rural areas purely as a voter base. As students in Calcutta University, we were taught about the vast ‘rural urban disparities’ in service delivery, amenities and other ‘indicators’ of economic development in West Bengal. These gaps have not reduced even after all these years. It still takes over six hours to reach Puruliya from Calcutta, a physical distance of only about 150 kilometres as the birds fly. A poor understanding of rural minds and aspirations neutralised the support base that the Leftists had built up in the rural areas. There is also a psychological and cultural distance between the primate city of Calcutta and the rest of West Bengal; Calcutta did and still does belong to a different time and way of life than the rural areas of the state. Anyone who has ever been exposed to popular Bengali cinema would instantly recognise the dichotomy I am referring to: while the villagers watched jatras on mother-in-law vs daughter-in-law struggles or films with names such as ‘Please don’t wipe away my sindoor’ (the red symbol of a married woman)’, the sophisticated Chief Minister set up a cultural hub in Nandan to indulge in cerebral films and hobnob with culture-vultures. As a result, the Left Front not only failed to bridge the rural-urban gap but enhanced the cultural disparity by entrenching a bhadralok rule from Kolkata and by detaching itself from the growing aspiration of rural ‘masses’. The tamasha intensified just before the elections over the public denigration of Mamata as a prostitute and offending comments by CPI(M) leaders on the lack of sindoor on her forehead.

It will be a mistake to see this triumph as purely a ‘negative vote’ against the CPI(M), against the misrule and the gaping distance of its leaders from the ordinary people. Neither are politicians of West Bengal more corrupt than in the rest of India, nor does the CPIM policies – whether in acquiring land from the poor farmers or in wooing foreign industrialists – very much different from the neoliberal policies being followed by the rest of India. What set the Left Front apart was its continuous effort to exert control over peoples’ minds, to dictate ways of behaviour, to tell them what was right and what was not, moral from immoral, and to decide what is ‘good’ and ‘acceptable’ and what is not. In its three-and-a-half-decades of rule the CPI(M) has come to exert a ‘vice-like grip’ on all segments of the society. During my years of living and working as a single mother in semi-rural West Bengal, I collected enough personal experience of extreme social and political harassment by the CPI(M). I experienced firsthand how a system based on favouritism and party allegiance took over meritocracy in the state’s reputed institutions of higher education. On a personal level, I could possibly also share stories of harassment, shaming, smearing and slandering, and silencing of many others, women and men, who at one time might have been genuine believers in either nationalist or Communist ideology. In the sordid culture that the CPI(M) nurtured, personal agency was put under suspicion; sarcastic and snide remarks made by those in power turned ordinary individual’s reputation to dust, turned her into persona non grata and broke her morale. I witnessed how an elitist middle-class scrapped English from primary education for the public and sent their children to expensive English-medium schools and then to foreign universities. They did so while the overall literacy rates declined in the state; higher education stagnated as more and more students left the state for education in other states. As the very associations that brought people together against exploitation turned into arenas of malice and strongholds of vested power, dedicated members and supporters left the party from bitter disillusionment and disappointment. These are not new, similar stories have been told by many others; and the modus operandi of silencing has been immortalised in the Bengali proverb: ‘Congress hate mare, CPM bhate mare’ (the Congress took life, but the CPM destroys one’s livelihood).

However tsunami-sized it might have been, the wave of ‘paribartan’ (change) could not have toppled the bastion unless the Left Front had become internally hollow. As in the USSR, the demise of the Left Front marks an ignominious end to an egalitarian ideology and glorious radical struggle that ushered significant social, political and economic changes for the benefit of the poor. However, the future remains uncertain; a complete hegemony of the CPI(M) prevented the flourishing in the state of an alternative leftist movement. It will take a long time for alternatives to emerge as the former ‘dissidents’ come together to appear as a political force. It is unlikely, in my view, that the CPI(M) will ever return to power, at least in its present structure and organisation. Two things have already started: violent political skirmishes among groups and party members working at the grassroots where neighbourhood Kremlins and fortresses have been built with donation money and stocked with arms, and the exodus of high-level politically appointed executives who failed to deliver. What the party now needs to do is to rebuild, restructure and reinvent itself in view of contemporary reality rather than hanging on to the history of radical politics. It needs to take a long and hard look at itself; something that several ‘dissidents’ had suggested earlier, only to be ousted from party membership. Such a complete overhaul from the bottom-up will need the departure not only of the defeated Chief Minister, but a whole lot of other major and minor leaders.

Comments

1. Subhra Biswas - May 24, 2011

About WB….Whatever happened so far in the name of development from the left front side was just by default. India is booming— so as every other states. WB was far behind in terms of infrastructural development, education, and poverty-eradication or rural development. So whatever couldn’t be happened during Mr. Basu, Mr.Bhattachariya tried to cover those gaps. NO BIG DEAL. This present political scenario i.e. “change of power” really geared up our expectations. The only concern is “Lankay je ashe sei Ravan hoi”…. Now we all have to “wait and watch” the show.
Few things to be noticed so far……
1.No official (Red lighted white Ambassador) typical vehicle is being used by the CM.
2.Rabindra Sangeet instead of typical ‘Gono-sangeet’( the typical songs composed by communists)
3.No holidays
4.Treat Saturday as another working day.
5.Work till the last hour.
6.DO it NOW approach
7.Short listed the immediate priorities such as ‘Gokhaland’ ‘Singur’ ‘Jangal Mahal’ etc. Let’s see how she handles these issues.
8.Special cells/ boards for handling special problems.

About Kerala…. Kerala is just a replica of WB. If you are there you will feel like staying in Bengal… untidiness, posters, labour strikes— everywhere. I was there in Jan’11 and common people of Kerala (i.e. driver, small saree seller) were quite aware of the fact that the left party will be wiped out from Bengal and WB will come up as “Green TMC Bengal” under the “extraordinary leadership” of Mamata Banerjee. But it may not be practical in their state because of not having any strong opposition leader like Mamata Banerjee. So they are still in “indecisive/ cynical” mood and the result of the recent poll depicts their wavering “mind-set”…. CPI(M) lost but in a very very poor margin. But now one thing is clear that the mind-set of people is getting changed rapidly.

About Tripura…. A small state and so far neglected from the rest of India. People in state are far behind from proper education and proper basic amenities (Roti-Kapra aur Makan). The main concern of the state is security and law n order. When we went there few years back we (My husband and myself) used to be surrounded by Army security stuffs (just to be under state – protection). It’s hard for common people to roam around there for fun. People of Tripura are far-way from having any political knowledge and they are accustomed with the present political party, even though they are rebellious to the core. Rebellious– against the system which kept them in darkness for so many years. They don’t really bothered by any political views. To them getting two times meal peacefully is much more important than anything else. So CPI(M) could rule over there for such a longer period and still they are continuing that. But people are very keen to accept new things or technologies. They learned (from some Swedish NGO) and use a simple and natural way to filter their drinking water and every villager is following that ‘Swedish Method’. So only proper development (by any form of Govt.) in terms of infrastructure, education, quick reach to basic amenities, job-creation for different level of people, development of undeveloped communities/tribes/society — can enlighten or change the future of the state. They have the mindset to accept the challenges but only “GOI” can change the phase of Tripura becoming more proactive towards its all-round development (mainly the tribes in mountainous regions).

2. Sayan Bhattacharyya - May 24, 2011

This is what the research wing of the CPI(M) has to say- http://www.telegraphindia.com/1110524/jsp/opinion/story_14018624.jsp

3. Kavita Krishnan - May 24, 2011

“What the party now needs to do is to rebuild, restructure and reinvent itself in view of contemporary reality rather than hanging on to the history of radical politics.”
– Why? Getting rid of the ‘historical baggage’ of radical politics is precisely what has led to CPIM’s collapse, hasn’t it? They’ve defined contemporary reality as capitalism, and have argued that communists must embrace neoliberalism – but their own peasant base didn’t agree and threw them out! As for ‘dissidents’ – I hope you don’t mean Somnath Chatterjee, who is upset because the Left opposed the Nuke deal and thinks a closer embrace with the Congress is the way ahead!

4. Babuji Bose - May 24, 2011

Kuntala … nice observations, but hindsight analaysis tend to be ‘I told you so’ … which is true, because after 2009 Loka Sabha elections, and later panchayat and municpal elections, everybody knew this was coming, 34 year or not … whilst fully agreeing with many of your observations, must also remind that both CPM and Trinamool are hard-nosed practical bunch politicians, who dont have the luxury of ‘the bhadralok disconnected with rural masses’ .. with your permission, am giving some points to ponder on, not specific to your note, but a general set of conversations…

—-

In perspective, let’s look at the elections of 2006, and what changed since then … Left was ruling for 29 years, cadre raj was stifling, industries were disappearing, Kolkata and other towns were being badly administered, Mamata in opposi…tion was at her fiery and energetic best, there was fatigue and disgust with 29 years of red rule … yet Buddhadev and Left had its best ever performance – never under Jyoti Babu did Left have such a star performance – 230+ seats, 51% of the vote, 4 out 5 new voters voted for Buddha – a vote hailed at the time as being for ‘change, stability, hope’ … in the 5 years since what materially changed ?? … Buddhadev, for all his bumbling, certainly got some things moving, cities began to look up, investments began to come in, agricultural output was good, law & order was normal, other things were same, importantly, there was no taint of corruption or scandal around Buddhadev or top leaders, unlike what was happening in rest of India … Mamata was a constant – no change there … Singur happened, and by deeper acounts, the locals by and large, were for the Tata project and its spin-offs, reasonably compensated, all of middle-class Bengal and the diaspora, were for the project, and many cursed Mamata for blocking the project (if folks remember the media, emails, SMS of the period) … sure, Nandigram was a disaster, but dozens of these things are going on across the country – Posco, Jaitapur, Parsaur Bhatti – wthout greatly disturbing the popularity or stability of the respective state governments … so, what really changed between between 2006 and 2011 ? … the answer will not be told by TV talking heads, ‘I told you so’ experts, pontificatory editorials … but the answer is there … the answer is blowing in the wind :-)

Jyoti babu quickly retired and handed over to Buddhadev a year before the 2001 poll, because the Left knew his government had become unpopular, and gently eased the patriarch out … in 2001, Left didn’t do so well, though it has got a majority … so, the 2006 election, was really a mandate and positive vote for Buddha … so, what changed in rural Bengal in just 5 years ? … Mamata was always a constant … Left had lost Kolkata and urban centres by 1990s, another constant … so the variable was, Buddha and Biman Basu (after death of Promode Dasgupta, and Anil Biswas) … as you observed Sarbojit, the Left and Buddha seemed very resigned to their fates, and eager to resign … something had changed in rural Bengal, or some hopes were belied or a generational and values change leveraged itself … I dont know … bu the answer is out there … you can bet both Left, and TMC know the answer in practical self-honesty, in their inner conclaves, where nitty-gritty of politics is analyzed, away from TV cameras … so, we just have to figure it out … agriculture, rural power equations, would be the key … but otherwise I dont know the answer any more than you or anybody else ..

{Response to point} … the rise of the subaltern has actually long been a factor in Indian politics … the anti-Brahminical movements of South and West, and later North, the political rise and empowerment of OBCs and Dalits goes back decades… … in Bengal, political leadership, somehow remained in with the bhadralok metropolitan class, but in the districts it is sturdily with ‘subaltern’ (in case of CPM and TMC) or local semi-feudal grandees (in case of Congress) … in Kerala, 87y old VS Achutanand gave Congress a fright, bnearly ucking the anti-incumbecy trend, and coming to within 2 seats of returning to power – he is a class 4 drop-out, labourer, and worked his way up party ranks, a combative fighter, with rustic language and mannerism (can barely read or speak English) … on the other hand, Orissa has Naveen Patnaik, a propah Doon school boy, Delhi party circuit jet-setter, reluctant to get into politics, until death of his father – he doesn’t know, cant read, speak Oriya (has promised to learn) – but he is quite popular with voters … so its quite a fascinating mix in Indian politics, nothing in black & white … To renew my question to you and Sarobjit …. in 2001 elections, Mamata had bounded to 60 MLAs, in 2006 she slumped to 29 MLAs … why ? … she was the same in 2001, 2006, 2011, a constant … what changed around her ?

Ratan Tata # On withdrawing Nano project from Singur, in face of Mamata’s protest

Would you like to support the present government of Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharya to build a prosperous
state with rule of law, modern infrastructure and industrial growth or a state consumed by a destructive political environment of confrontation, agitation, violence and lawlessness”. “Do they want education and jobs in the industrial and hi-tech sectors or,” the letter goes on to say, “does the future generation see their future prosperity achieved on a ‘stay-as-we-are’ basis?”

‘All through the two years we have been constructing the plant at Singur, this feeling of faith and confidence in the vision and objectives of the state government has been reinforced,’ Tata wrote in his letter. ‘Unfortunately, the confrontation by Trinamool Congress [ Images ] led by Mamata Banerjee [ Images ] and supported by vested interests and certain political parties, opposing the acquisition of land by the state government, have caused serious disruptions to the progress of the Nano plant, ‘ he said. He wrote, ‘The land acquired by the state government at Singur and leased to Tata Motors has been, we believe, through a transparent process with fair compensation.” ‘Throughout the construction of the plant, the company has had to endure constant acts of aggression on the site, occasional acts of violence, breakage of the compound perimeter walls, theft of construction material from within the project area, as well as intimidation and even physical assault of employees, contract labour and residents of the area to be absorbed in the project,’ he said Tata further wrote, ‘Various attempts at finding solutions were thwarted by the Trinamool Congress’ consistent demand that land acquired for the Nano plant and its integrated vendor park be returned to the segment of the land owners which the Trinamool Congress party claims to represent. ‘Tata Motors has always maintained that this project has been conceived of as an integrated campus of manufacturing facilities and suppliers, so as to maximise integration and minimise logistics and material flow costs. Disruption of this integrated campus would make it extremely difficult for the company to meet its product price and productivity goals,’ he said

Buddhadeb steered Bengal to 4th position in industrial growth

During the last few years of the Left rule, Bengal witnessed rapid industrialization. Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee steered the state to fourth position in terms of rapid growth of industry even better than highly industrialized Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. The Medium and Small Enterprises (MSEs), considered as the backbone of industry in any state, has shown largest expansion, catapaulting West Bengal at number four, only after Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi. Gujarat is a distant No. 7 and Andhra Pradesh a shade above at 6.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Buddhadeb-steered-Bengal-to-4th-position-in-industrial-growth/articleshow/8544202.cms

… political power is a a matrix of patronage and protest … ideology matters little, more like a rationale for being one or the other football club fan … this election was won and lost in rural Bengal, who as usual are highly involved in politics, always around or above 70% voter turnout through 34 years, never mind summer heat … but has Left Front been totally incompetent or shoddy or corrupt in rural Bengal … this is the record …

Around 250,000 houses constructed per year under rural housing scheme, around 400,000 sanitary toilets per year, 20 lakh chicks given to women self-help groups for poultry, Rice at Rs 2 to 26 mn BPL people … 99.2% of children are in schools, with drop out rate of low 7% … NRGEA employment of over 700 lakh mandays, rice production risen from 70 lk tons to 170 lk tons in 2010, no 1 in fish production, no 2 in potato, 15% national share in fruit and vegetables. Courtesy land reform, Small and marginal farmers own 84% of the total cultivable land, compared to national average of 34%. Operation Barga, Panchayati raj are exemplary.

Even correcting for partisan propaganda, and airy statistics, this not exactly a failing grade … so what happened between 2006 and 2011 ? … why the political changeover ? … obviously, it could change again in 2016, like the Kerala or TN oscillating model, Left could replace Mamata in power … but what is significant is the new confidence and assurance of the rural power brokers, and the populace, that they could now use parties, not vice versa … why and how this happened, is story of maturing democracy in Bengal, IMHO … will be fascinating to slowly discover more

like the other essays on the page … e.g. Anglo-Indians in Oz …Keep shining …

5. Babuji Bose - May 25, 2011

In summary… if we had Proportional Representation, as in Australia or Europe, the thumping wins or losses as in the British legacy FFP system, would show up much less dramatically … in 2006, Mamata had just 29 MLAs to Left 234, but had 41% of the vote … the scenario is reversed in 2011 … and predicted since 2009 Lok Sabha elections and subsequent panchayat, municipal polls … technically no great surprise, though a 8-10% reverse swing will take some soul-searching

The CPM in Bengal is different than the one in Kerala … different political history … no point trying to making them more ‘social-democrat’, less ‘communist’, as many are advising …right now they are somewhat boxed in … with Congress undertaking fairly sweeping social welfare measures of leftst nature … and on the right BJP consolidating power in their states, and yet availing the opposition space as afforded by inflation, corruption, other soci-economic and political issues … nor can they become Maoists, or lohia caste socialists … so they are in a bind … but they are experienced political party, and will evolve from their own dynamics … or else, become irrelevant, as they have in states where they had strong presence e.g. Punjab, Andhra, Maharashtra … que sera sera

6. patrick ghose - May 25, 2011

sounds like the same bhadraloks who are now critiquing the left’s 34 year rule after their ignominious defeat. the bengali obsession with the romanticism of marx, tagore and ray has resulted in their not wanting to participate pragmatically in governance or the cause of their fellow citizen. bengalis have been by and large cattle, preferring to be led rather than to lead, which may account for their being such well-known critics of esoteric issues. that does not require much doing, just a whole lot of wasteful thinking..intellectual masturbation as it were. it’s a good thing the author has distanced herself from her native bengal or she would have just added to the unworthy class of bhadraloks who have merely contributed to the balderdash that is prevalent in past and present thinking. she’s got it wrong. the change is not happening because of some political persona but the fact that the youth, long bereft of anything that supported their need for change, want it badly and will do whatever to ensure it happens. this is a new way of thinking and does not in any way subscribe to intellectual masturbation.

7. Mark Jones - May 25, 2011

Dear Kuntala,
One of the growing social divides in the New India is between the English knowing aspirational classes and the vernacular speaking peasant classes. You comment that “….an elitist middle-class scrapped English from primary education for the public and sent their children to expensive English-medium schools and then to foreign universities. They did so while the overall literacy rates declined in the state; higher education stagnated as more and more students left the state for education in other states.” To what degree do you think awareness on the part of the “new middle-class in the villages” that they had been excluded from the economic progress of India contributed to Didi’s rise to power?

8. Soumit - May 26, 2011

This is so well written and bitterly true. However, one fact that noone is talking about or rather writing about is the ‘scientific rigging’ that has been at the root of their being in power for so long. If one analyses the vote percentages it becomes abundantly clear that the Congress was the deciding factor in Mamata’s landslide. The last 3 elections have witnessed a constant 38-40% of votes in favour of the Congress. With the Trinamool now replacing the Congress as the dominant opposition the committed Congress voters voted in favor of the TMC. This gave them the additional 10% and thereby victory.
It is a well known fact prior to the 2006 elections people could easily be identified as pro or against the CPI(M) from the ballots. However, from 2006, with the introduction of the electronic voting machines the CPI(M) was caught off guard. However, the Election Commission had not been so proactive and had allowed the State government to prepare the voters list. The CPI(M) used the voters list as the master manipulative gain from the Election Commission and prepared a dubious voters list to suit themselves. In some booths there were more votes than people registered to vote. To many this was the beginning of the end for the Left forces.
The culmination came in the Lok Sabha elections and then the State Assembly elections when people turned out to get registration as voters en masse. The CPI(M) tried it’s best to prevent the change in the voters list but the Election Commission would have nothing of it and empowered people to get enlisted online or complain online. There was nothing that the CPI(M) could do.
For me personally the sense of defeat of the Left Front came during this registration period. I saw the huge number of people, especially youngsters (18-25), coming to get their Voters ID and talk of the backwardness of West Bengal vis-a-vis the rest of India. I smelt the disgust for their pitiable condition being laid at the doorstep of the 35 years of Leftist rule.
Unfortunately party sycophants thought nothing of it despite getting very clear signals that now they had also drifted away from the urban middle class not to speak of the rural poor.
I was part of the procession that walked against the government after Nandigram and the comments that were being made from the sideline by party cadres stank of arrogance and little care for the poor and the down-trodden. As I had openly said to some Leftist leaders at the time- “you do not represent the proletariat anymore. You represent oppression and dalals”. The whole party was awash with land shark money and it’s leaders are amongst the most corrupt. Being intelligent leftists they did not display their wealth publicly unlike the DMK or BSP. They created webs whereby nothing could be traced back to them directly.
I would like to ask the Late Subhash Chakraborty’s wife where they got the money to build the palatial residence in Salt Lake and the source of funds for her NGO? There are many like him who have never done a days work other than being MLAs or Ministers.
Again, as Mamata has repeatedly said in her campaign, how can passing the hat create hundreds of crores to build such fancy party offices in every district. This needs to be investigated thoroughly.
Finally, the communists never called themselves ‘bhadralok’. Read Dr.Ashoke Mitra’s various articles and he repeatedly says that communists can’t be and are not bhadraloks. That is a genre attributable to the bourgeois. He has also analysed very definitively the reasons for the debacle of the Left in one of the OP Ed columns that he writes every week for The Telegraph. In fact he has defied the party to censure him for speaking out against Budhadeb and Biman Bose. One should read the marxist angle also. It tallies with what Dipankar Bhattacharyya and you have written.

9. Subhra Biswas - May 26, 2011

About WB….Whatever happened so far in the name of development from the left front side was just by default. India is booming— so as every other states. WB was far behind in terms of infrastructural development, education, and poverty-eradication or rural development. So whatever couldn’t be happened during Mr. Basu, Mr.Bhattachariya tried to cover those gaps. NO BIG DEAL. This present political scenario i.e. “change of power” really geared up our expectations. The only concern is “Lankay je ashe sei Ravan hoi”…. Now we all have to “wait and watch” the show.
Few things to be noticed so far……
1.No official (Red lighted white Ambassador) typical vehicle is being used by the CM.
2.Rabindra Sangeet instead of typical ‘Gono-sangeet’( the typical songs composed by communists)
3.No holidays
4.Treat Saturday as another working day.
5.Work till the last hour.
6.DO it NOW approach
7.Short listed the immediate priorities such as ‘Gokhaland’ ‘Singur’ ‘Jangal Mahal’ etc. Let’s see how she handles these issues.
8.Special cells/ boards for handling special problems.

About Kerala…. Kerala is just a replica of WB. If you are there you will feel like staying in Bengal… untidiness, posters, labour strikes— everywhere. I was there in Jan’11 and common people of Kerala (i.e. driver, small saree seller) were quite aware of the fact that the left party will be wiped out from Bengal and WB will come up as “Green TMC Bengal” under the “extraordinary leadership” of Mamata Banerjee. But it may not be happened in their state because of not having any strong opposition leader like Mamata Banerjee. So they are still in “indecisive/ cynical” mood and the result of the recent poll depicts their wavering “mind-set”…. CPI(M) lost but in a very very poor margin. But now one thing is clear that the mind-set of people is getting changed rapidly.

About Tripura…. A small state and so far neglected from the rest of India. People in state are far behind from proper education and proper basic amenities (Roti-Kapra aur Makan). The main concern of the state is security and law n order. When we went there few years back we used to be surrounded by Army security stuffs (just to be under state – protection). It’s hard for common people to roam around there for fun. People of Tripura are far-way from having any political knowledge and they are accustomed with the present political party, even though they are rebellious to the core. Rebellious– against the system which kept them in darkness for so many years. They don’t really bothered by any political views. To them getting two times meal peacefully is much more important than anything else. So CPI(M) could rule over there for such a longer period and still they are continuing that. But people are very keen to accept new things or technologies. They learned (from some Swedish NGO) and use a simple and natural way to filter their drinking water and every villager is following that ‘Swedish Method’. So only proper development (by any form of Govt.) in terms of infrastructure, education, quick reach to basic amenities, job-creation for different level of people, development of undeveloped communities/tribes/society — can enlighten or change the future of the state. They have the mindset to accept the challenges but only “GOI” can change the phase of Tripura becoming more proactive towards its all-round development (mainly the tribes in mountainous regions).

10. bhupendra pratap singh - June 25, 2011

http://www.arindamchaudhuri.blogspot.com/

The Mamata Banerjee Leadership Theory of Aggressive Action with Commitment for Change

11. Manu Goswami - June 26, 2011

http://www.arindamchaudhuri.blogspot.com/

The speculation was that in world history, whenever such Stalinist rule of repression has ended, it has ended with a massive revenge mission with thousands of lives being lost, since those who have been oppressed and exploited for so long almost logically seek their pound of flesh