Thursday, September 21, 2023

Behind the fall of Left Front

The fall of the Left Front from power in West Bengal has been on the cards for the last three years, ever since the alliance did badly in panchayat elections.
Thereafter, the Front badly lost the civic body elections and parliamentary elections in 2009.
The main reason behind the success of Mamata Banerjee, who quit Congress and formed Trinamool Congress in 1998, was her unwavering campaign against the Communists, calling what she alleged their “bluff” in maintaining democracy and carrying out development of West Bengal.
She emerged as the most dependable rallying point for anti-Left, as people of the state have over the years got disenchanted with the Left Front.
Her party filled the space of a credible opposition to the Left, the space which Congress lost because of its dalliance with the Left from time to time including from 2004 to 2009 when a coalition government at the centre led by Congress had got outside support from Left parties.
Congress had a layered relationship with the Left. While in West Bengal politics, Congress was sworn rival of Left, at the national level the two parties were often friends in the past including between 2004 and 2009. Over the years, this has harmed both sides politically as far as their credibility was concerned, although Congress has enjoyed fruits of power at the centre with the Left help.
Mamata, on the other hand, was steadfast in her fight against the Left, enhancing her credibility.
The power and arrogance of being in power for 34 years, and a perception of invincibility went into the heads of CPI(M) rank and file in West Bengal. Anybody in any field who was not ideologically with the Marxists were steamrolled in all sorts of ways, and dissent in and out of the party was put down with iron hands, putting at stake the liberal democratic ethos of the state.
A section of CPI(M) rank and file got mired in corruption and led a luxurious lifestyle, which they have always preached against. As this section sent a wrong image of the party, Mamata, on the other hand, led a simple life wearing her trademark plain cotton sari and a pair of chappals, and living in a tiled-roof house in one of the most congested localities of Kolkata.
Mamata unfailingly and tirelessly sided with farmers whose land were being acquired, and with those who became victims of CPI(M)’s campaign in villages or towns.
CPI(M)’s aggressive trade union wing CITU worked as a stumbling block to private industries and investment and information technology sector in West Bengal, the sunrise sector in other parts of India. That led to large-scale unemployment and anger among the educated and technically skilled youth in West Bengal.
The Marxist party also antagonised the peasantry by going for acquisition of agriculturally fertile land for setting up industries. The top leaders of CPI(M) went about acquiring land, ignoring warnings even from its own peasants’ wing Krishak Sabha.
As the defeat of the Left looked imminent with every passing day in the run up to the elections this year, CPI(M) became more and more desperate launching personal attacks on Mamata, and indulging in her character assassination, further antagonising a section of Left and a vast segment of non-Left voters.
Another costly mistake made by CPI(M) was that while Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had during election campaign admitted from time to time errors made by his party, his party colleagues went about being unapologetic and as aggressive as ever.
Soon after coming to power in July 1977, CPI(M) had over the decades created a new class of wealthy people by land reforms, giving land and money to landless. This new class then went on to grab more land and became a new ruling section and was caught in the same contradictions of a semi-feudal and semi-capitalistic set-up against which the party had fought earlier.
CPI(M) refused to read warning signals and take lessons from its defeat in successive elections since 2008. Anybody slightly familiar with ground reality of West Bengal had predicted the rout of the Left in this year’s election.


Courtesy of The Daily Star

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