The wind of change in the state is getting stronger and stronger day-by-day. It started blowing since 2008 when Panchayat election took place and the ruling Left Front got a big jolt from the opposition spearheaded by Mamata Banerjee. Forceful acquisition of agricultural land by the government from the unwilling owners had sparked off the movement in rural areas. Peasants’ displeasure was reflected in the Panchayat election, 2008. But the ruling party did not put any importance to that. Hence they had to face the music and embrace defeat in consecutive elections which was their destiny.
In fact, since 2008, the Left Front especially the CPI (M) went on losing their ground. The biggest shock they had received was in the last Parliamentary election. The Left Front or for that matter the CPI-M was washed out from almost all parliamentary constituencies. The final tally in parliamentary election, 2009, was TMC – Congress 26, BJP 1, and Left Front 15. In the last parliamentary election in 2004, Left Front got 35 seats and the rest 7 seats went to opposition. What a great fall. The story of defeat did not stop here. After parliamentary election they lost Assembly by-elections and in school and college managing board elections also they had drawn flak. They just could not stop the strong wind which was blowing in favour of opposition. In student union elections in colleges too, ruling party of the state did not get any respite.
Now, the municipal elections are round the corner. In the month of May-June this year, municipal elections to all municipalities are going to take place. Under the present circumstances the Left Front and especially the CPI (M) is very much concerned with the election of Kolkata Municipal Corporation. Because an analysis of the voting pattern in the last parliamentary elections showed that the Opposition enjoyed a lead in at least 121 of the 141 corporation wards. If this trend translates into votes in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) elections, the Opposition can expect to take charge of the city from 2010. In the present KMC House the Left Front has 75 councillors, Trinamool Congress 46 and the Opposition put together has 66.
In majority of municipal corporations and municipalities, this situation is prevailing. Given the way in which the Opposition has dented the Left vote bank, many are expecting a total rout for the ruling combination in next year’s Assembly election. The election results, to be held a year ahead of the crucial Assembly polls in 2011, would also be an indicator of things to come.
Political analysts maintain that issues in a civic body election are vastly different from those during the Assembly or parliamentary polls. But the trend since the panchayat polls of 2008 has helped the Opposition to surge ahead. On the other hand, the ruling Left Front had either faltered in identifying the actual issue in Singur or Lalgarh or they had pursued a policy of exploitation for their own political gain. The general people were sandwiched under this dubious role of the government. If the government was sincere in the attitude, they would have taken a right course of action and the problem which the state had been facing, would have been sorted out much earlier.
Only a few years ago, a committee of the Planning Commission said Left wing extremism was not just a law and order problem but also something rising out of underdevelopment, poverty, dehumanisation, injustice and inequality. Maoists exploit these conditions to invoke rebellion. Hence, policing cannot tackle Maoists.
In the six months of anti-Maoist operation in Lalgarh, the ultras have spread to choke newer areas beyond Lalgarh. “Because of the government policy to apply force, our lives are getting ruined. The combined force is torturing common people and they must be withdrawn immediately,” said a Congress leader and Jhargram resident. Former bureaucrat Debabrata Bandopadhyay said, “The government has been the law violator in these areas for years. Now, by sending police they cannot pacify people’s grievances.”
However, it is also true that despite the strong winds of change blowing across the state, the Left has also been able to win several elections even though with a reduced margin in many cases. Political analysts feel that the present trend is more of a mandate against the Left than one in favour of the Opposition.
The Left is aware that a fairly good show in the KMC elections in 2010 will be a welcome motivating factor before the crucial Assembly polls the year after. The Left will be hoping to carry forward a good showing in the KMC elections. A good show would mean another reason to press for bringing ahead the 2011 elections that Bengal is eagerly waiting to watch.
(The writer can be contacted at 13/B, SN Chatterjee Road, Kolkata-700 038.)