Continuing with electoral success, West Bengal’s Opposition parties Trinamool Congress and Congress combine crushed the ruling Left Front in the urban civic body polls by winning 13 of the State’s 16 municipalities. Six weeks after the Left suffered a serious jolt in the Lok Sabha polls it continued to lose ground as majority voters want a change of political powers in West Bengal. Till now, Left Front had controlled 11 of the 16 municipalities in 10 districts of the State. In the last Lok Sabha elections, the TMC – Congress combine bagged 26 of the State’s 42 seats. The tide of anti-Left mood in Bengal has swept even more areas in the civic polls, signalling an almost certain end of the Left by 2011 Assembly elections.
The outcome of the elections in 10 districts across the State confirmed the voters’ continued rejection of the ruling Left Front at all levels — from panchayat to Parliament and now municipalities. The recent results actually exposed worse erosions in the Left’s support base than the parliamentary polls had indicated. The steady erosion of the CPM and its allies’ support base, both rural and urban, had become evident from the rural panchayat polls in May last year in which Trinamool almost swept South Bengal.
The Left’s loss of municipalities in South 24-Parganas’ Rajpur-Sonarpur and Mahe-shtala, North 24-Parganas’ Madhyamgram, Dum Dum and South Dum Dum, Hooghly’s Dankuni and Howrah’s Uluberia confirmed to the Opposition victory in all four districts in the recent parliamentary polls.
What is more worrisome for the CPM is that the Opposition made significant advances in its bastion of Burdwan by bagging civic bodies in the industrial towns of Asansol and Kulti, though the CPM had managed to retain Asansol and the other two seats in Burdwan in the parliamentary polls. On the other hand, the Congress’s ability to retain Sainthia in Birbhum and Trinamool’s control over the civic body in East Midnapore’s Egra, despite the defeat of its chairman, indicates continuing popular support in favour of the Opposition, particularly in Trinamool-dominated South Bengal.
In a recent review of the party’s worst-ever debacle in the Lok Sabha polls, the CPM central committee was candid enough about the extent of its rout. It said the Left Front suffered a “major erosion” in its vote share, 7.42 per cent and 6.88 per cent in comparison to the 2004 Lok Sabha and 2006 Assembly polls, respectively. The corresponding “substantial increase” in the vote share of the Trinamool (45.67 per cent) and the BJP (6.14 per cent) has made the ruling Left most vulnerable in 32 years of its rule in Bengal. With the central committee report admitting that the “Left Front has majority only in 99 Assembly segments out of 294 for 42 Lok Sabha seats in the State”, the party leadership virtually concedes the possible impact of the national poll pattern in the coming Assembly elections.
With the Trinamool-Congress combine dominant in 182 constituencies in terms of the Lok Sabha poll outcome, the odds for the CPM and its allies become apparently insurmountable. The central committee pointed out that the Left managed to get more than 50 per cent votes only in 41 of the 99 Assembly segments.
Sops for minorities after poll debacle: Alarmed by the continuing poll debacles which the party has identified as the Muslim apathy towards the Left, the Left Front government has announced a slew of projects for minorities with an eye on the 2011 Assembly elections. “The Muslim community is feeling alienated from us. There is a perception that the Left government has not done anything for them in the last 32 years. We want to break that perception,” said CPM state secretary, Biman Bose.
The first project is a paramedical college for Muslim women, to come up on 140 acres behind Lady Brabourne College that has been acquired by the minorities department for Rs 18 crore. It will be a 10-storeyed building with state-of-the-art classrooms and a library. The students would receive practical training at the National Medical College.The government hopes to inaugurate the college in January 2011, just before the elections. The college would also have a hostel that can accommodate at least 100 students. The government has decided to build another hostel for Muslim girls at a cost of Rs 6 crore on Dilkhusha Street. It will accommodate 60 students.
Another project in the pipeline is a credit scheme for Muslim women to start small businesses. The government is planning to roll out the scheme in all the districts by the year-end. Three per cent interest would be charged on the loans. In special cases, the interest might be waived. The government’s Haj Tower, whose foundation stone was laid by the chief minister three years ago, would be completed by 2010.