The Great Fall.
The longest running Communist government in a state has had its end on Friday, the 13th. This might not be as suspense thriller as the Hollywood blockbuster is, but it’s no less than a roller coaster saga for the Left as well as Mamata Banerjee!!
This is very much a predictable result. Opinion Polls and Exit polls have already given almost the same numbers as what the TMC Alliance and Left have got. So, that it would be ‘Left’s poll for exit’ was assumed. Officially though, run up for this moment has begun 2 years back. First phase of ‘Paribartan’ was seen in Loksabha election of 2009. Civic body elections too didn’t give any scope to stimulate confidence in CPIM. For mishandling of Singur, Nandigram and to some extent Rizwanur Rahaman death case, the war cry for ‘Change’ had gradually acquired a strong support base. And the Tsunami called ‘Paribartan’ indeed has washed away the Left even from their traditional strongholds.
The mandate is clear. Bengal has not only voted against the Left but also for the TMC-Congress alliance. Had it been only negative votes, alliance couldn’t have got 2/3rd majority with almost all the standing ministers losing including the CM Budhhadeb Bhattacharya. Alliance was successful enough to convince people that why they should vote for them. Moreover CPIM has continuously lost contact with the grassroot level. Almost three and a half decades in power made them overconfident. By the time they started taking the ‘corrective’ measures, it was already very late. And the ‘Mamata’ factor... In my previous articles (‘Winds of Change’ & ‘Paint it Green’) I have already talked about her: from whimsical to mature, how she transformed herself. Why people have started to see her as the best alternative to Left. With ‘never-say-no’ mentality she actually brought Jasmine Revolution here.
It is learnt from the CSDS survey that richest and the poorest have voted for the agent of change i.e. Didi. Why is it so? Just rewind a bit. Many believe that Higher Education & Industry was destroyed by CPIM. No English education in the Primary Level too has angered the rich & the urban upper middle class. On the other hand, ‘CPIM is taking away land from the poor’ the clever campaign by TMC was enough to make their mind change. They had the ready reference of Nandigram-Singur-Lalgarh.
Many Left sympathizers left heartbroken, the Rightist supporters are falling short of words. Expectation from the new government is enormous. Now, they want to see the actual ‘Change’ as promised in the manifesto. It can be surely said that people won’t wait another 34 years to witness change.
Mamata, by dedicating this victory to ‘Ma-Mati-Manush’ has told that this is the ‘second independence of Bengal.’ Pranab Mukherjee has already promised her a special package for Bengal for economic reconstruction as WB in debt-trap. The other challenge would be how she resolves the on-going ‘Hill’ problems and ‘jangalmahal’ and Maoist insurgency. With the ‘temporary’ end of the Communist era in Bengal, this time industrialists might be surer to invest here. Didi has announced to bring reforms in law and order, education, health and in other sectors. But the first & foremost challenge is definitely to maintain peace everywhere. Rural Bengal has bled long in vendetta politics. This should stop at once. It must be ensured that no one is without shelter in fear of being killed by the political enemies. I hope here it won’t be the beginning of Tamil Nadu way of politics where government and opposition always target each other. I wish CPIM will play the role of a Constructive opposition and won’t protest all the policies of new government like last 34 years opposition did.
State-Centre relation in Bengal too would change now. Predictably, centre will shed off its hostility towards this state. UPA II government has got enough boosters in the just-concluded assembly elections. Other than Tamil Nadu, they have performed well. Though they have won in Kerala by a whisker.
As the biggest ally of the UPA II, Mamata has so long opposed new land acquisition bill, pension bill and some other important bills. As soon as mandate was for her, she told a television channel that she wants new land policy. It is learnt, the bill is due to pass in the next session of the Parliament. Now whether she takes the same stand in these bills, would be a continuing focus. As of now centre won’t go against much of her will, as, if her party withdraws support, UPA II will be in big trouble. In West Bengal TMC has got absolute majority, so they don’t need Congress at all to run the government. Loksabha election is another 3 years away, so Congress has time, so they might adopt ‘Go slow’ policy in these contentious issues.
What is the road ahead for CPIM? As some are saying, is this really the end of Communism in India? I think, no. CPIM has lost contact with people and real issues related to the poor. They have got 5 years of time to go back to the basics from where they had begun. In the grass root level there are corruptions, nepotism and ‘brigades of opportunist members’, this practice must be put to an end. In order to channelize energy and confidence among the party members, CPIM has to start afresh. The Left here has already realised that there were huge percentage of negative voting for them. They have lost 7% of their dedicated vote-bank, whereas TMC has gained 19%. People have the ultimate authority to reject and select, so they have to find out why the electorates don’t want them any more. Organisational capability is not everything.
I believe, the biggest problem for CPIM is the disjunction between the Politbureau and the general mass. Politbureau decision is not always in consistency with the ground realities. Some are merely theoretical. Now Prakash Karats must learn from V S Achuthanandans. Hats off to the octogenarian for his efforts, he has almost done it in Kerala. Many are saying in Kerala, LDF has achieved a moral victory.
However, ‘Change’ is constant in democratic politics. Everywhere in the world and in India there is change of guard in elections. Because West Bengal was an exception, the change has resulted in so much of discussions, celebration, and frenzy.
Getting elected consecutively for 7 terms is history from all aspects. Long term in power always has a negative angle. It gives a certain contentment on the part of the government that the incumbent doesn’t have any alternative and whatever they are doing is good for the people. Electorates are taken for granted.
I belong to that generation who hasn’t seen any other government other than the Left front in my state. I was born when they were already in their second term. So we also don’t know what Green Revolution can bring to us. We have heard the ‘reign of terror’ by Sidhhartha Sankar Ray government from ’72-’77, we have not seen that. So veterans fear the repeating of that dark history.
But I am optimistic, after all Bengal is getting her first woman Chief Minister!! My only scepticism lies in the fact that if Didi remains current version of herself, we will see ‘dictatorship’ of ‘Durga in a crumpled Sari’!! Hope floats, ‘Paribartan’ might be seen in didi too...!!