Resurgent Left Front and Bengal Elections

The ongoing Bidhansabha (Legislative Assembly) election of Bengal is a tough challenge for the incumbent Trinamool Congress (TMC) government and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. In the criminal attacks by the TMC, to stop the Left Front from working among the people, four CPI(M) leaders have lost their lives in the past two days.

The TMC had come to power in Bengal in 2011 with a sweeping mandate when a potent concoction had brought down the three and half decade old Left Front government in the state. The anti-incumbency sentiments which had flared up among the electorate had been fuelled by a combination of false promises by the TMC, their alliance with the INC, Maoists and backed by an opportunist section of the civil society intellectuals. Corporate coffers have been backing Maoists and other insurgency groups in their subversion of the democratic ambience in a unified attempt to bring down the LF government led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. Itself in the doldrums about the political-tactical line regarding land acquisition for setting up industries, and tattered by the lumpenisation of the rank and file cadre, the Left Front had succumbed to the blow.

But now a lot of water has flown down the Hooghly river, and the times have indeed changed. A bleak future stares the Bengal electorate in the face. The TMC government has kept none of its pre-poll promises, no development has happened in the state beyond superficial cosmetic ones in the last five years. No new industry has come in, no new business house has ventured into the state, the education and healthcare infrastructure are in shambles, Bengal is topping the list of states in crimes against women, and a general breakdown of law and order due to the TMC’s complete criminalisation of politics has happened.

There have been numerous scams – Ponzi scams by the chit fund companies, scams by TMC leaders in municipal boards, as legislators and public officials, in government recruitment examinations, and various other areas, through savings of which many citizens and the public exchequer has been mooched dry. People have been forced to commit suicides in large numbers.

The agrarian economy has suffered a lot – farmers pushed to the brink due to lack of sustainable prices for their crops. The tea workers of the tea gardens of North Bengal need a special mention as numerous starvation deaths have taken place due to extreme poverty that resulted from the closure of several tea gardens. There have been public protests due to crackdown on university campuses, hunger strikes by students and large scale violence in college union elections. The Hol Kolorob protests by the Jadavpur University students against random police atrocities in the campus and the vandalisation of the Presidency University campus by mobs led by TMC legislators had grabbed national headlines. Apart from that there have been notable student protests in many campuses around the state.

To stick to power, the TMC has adopted a new strategy. They now do not bank on people to vote for them anymore. They simply have not allowed one single election to happen peacefully and democratically since they assumed powers. They have earned so much public ire through these five years of utter misgovernance that they are afraid to lose now.

There has been a complete breakdown of the law and order situation with the thugs backed by the incumbent party roaming around the state like rabid dogs, openly brandishing arms, assaulting people and threatening women with rape and molestation. Apart from the Park Street rape case, which the Chief Minister had initially tried to brush aside as “concocted”, there have been gory incidents of rape and molestation across the length and breadth of the states (1, 2, 3, 4). Legislators have openly threatened opposition cadres from dais by saying the TMC will rape their women. The police has been sterilised by the government and they either refuse to take FIRs against the ruling party cadres or are found hand-in-glove with them in criminal complicity.

Coming to the police, from time to time the enforcers have found themselves at the receiving end of the violence by government backed thugs too. A sub-inspector had been openly shot to death by members of the ruling party in broad daylight in Metiabruz. Several incidents have been reported by the media where the police had to look for shelter under the tables of the police stations in face of rampaging TMC cadre.

In a state where people die regularly due to lack of proper healthcare in the rural areas, a TMC minister had his pet dog’s dialysis done in the premier government hospital SSKM. Stopping at nothing, the ruling clique has set upon a rampaging mob to take complete control of all government institutions and make them inaccessible to the common people. Only TMC-loyalists are allowed entry or admission.

The CM herself has ushered lavish funds on clubs, functions and festivities, spending crores from the public exchequer on extravagant ceremonies whereas the government has been unable to pay its own employees their dearness allowance for years.

In view of this misrule, the amount of public grievance against the TMC is almost palpable.

To stick to power, the TMC has adopted a new strategy. They now do not bank on people to vote for them anymore. They simply have not allowed one single election to happen peacefully and democratically since they assumed powers. All urban and rural elections, be it panchayat votes or municipality elections, have been marred with violence during the TMC’s tenure. They have earned so much public ire through these five years of utter misgovernance that they are afraid to lose now.

A bleak future stares the Bengal electorate in the face. The TMC government has kept none of its pre-poll promises, no development has happened in the state beyond superficial cosmetic ones in the last five years.

Despite the rampant violence unleashed by the TMC in election, the Left Front has been able to forge popular resistance through its rallies and mass-connect programmes. And the winning of the Siliguri Municipal elections by the LF has been a sterling example of how united resistance by the people can be used to defeat the criminal violence of the TMC cadre.

More recently, the BPMO Jatha organized by the Left Front from a mass-organisation platform, which targeted having rallies and protest marches in each and every booth of the state, has been a tremendous success. The people, afraid of displaying dissent and earning the ire of the government, had rallied in unprecedented numbers when they saw the red-flag rallies in their localities.

Having rid itself of the excess lumpen flab that had gathered around during the three decades of incumbency, as most of the opportunist elements have switched allegiance in the four years since 2011, a leaner and more ideologically motivated Left Front has lately been tremendously successful in reclaiming the grass-root connect and regaining the people’s confidence.

The recent December rally at the Brigade Parade Ground held during the public session of the Plenum has broken all records of people’s gatherings in recent times. Seeing the leaders taking to the streets, braving police lathi charge and government persecution, the rank and file cadre has been rejuvenated with a new dose of courage and enthusiasm in challenging the TMC’s misrule.

Now it remains to be seen how much of that confidence and enthusiasm go all the way to reflect in the ballot boxes.