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After The Deluge

Why Left Failed

Arup Baisya

Both the resounding victory of Trinamul Congress (TMC) and the electoral drubbing of the Left in West Bengal have baffled many left leaning pollsters. The much talked about popular discontent against TMC due to the syndicate raj and the terror tactics of the TMC goons have not favoured the left combine (left plus Congress). But the left has a copybook answer which is in consonance with the allegation they have been propagating since long. Immediately after the announcement of the result, the CPIM general secretary wasted no time to blow the bugle of TMC-BJP clandestine alliance behind TMC's success. The rest of the Bengal leaders of CPM party beat the musical chord in unison to synthesise the same tune. The level of arrogance has reached to such a high that the necessity of introspection to analyse social dynamics is killed at the altar of rhetorical politics, the avatar of which rules the roost at national level now-a-days.

The only agenda the left combine placed before the Bengal electorate was 'to dislodge TMC to save democracy'. The Bengal voters saw no reason to prefer institutionalised terror of Left rule to unruly violence of lumpen precariat elements backed by TMC. In the entire campaign of the left combine, the main constituent, the CPIM, has neither apologised to the masses for the terror they have institutionalised during their rule, nor divulged the form of democracy they intend to offer to the Bengal people. People felt no urgency to make any comparison between the present TMC rule and the left rule in recent past on the basis of their role to patronise the political culture of attack on dissenters or merciless annihilation of political opponents. Rather, how the people were terrorised to be docile and servile to the party apparatchiks who were at the helm of affairs of all the institutions especially in rural life are still vivid in the people's mind. The concept of people's direct participation in Panchayat system through Gram-Sansad for promoting grassroots democracy was introduced by the left who, in turn, destroyed this democratic essence by forcible subsumption of social opinion to the party opinion of select few through institutionalisation of terror. How People's work space, social space and even family space were put under scanner and control of CPM party committees are not yet the bygone and forgotten days for Bengal electorates. Left could have made a humble start of the poll campaign by seeking apology to the people for their wanton mistake. But they did not do so. In such a scenario, so long as TMC does not develop a party structure and emulate the later part of the left rule of institutionalised terror, people will not consider the left as an alternative option. If such thing happens, during this transitional time period, CPM may get itself withered away in Bengal, because the large Shark like BJP has opened its mouth wide open to gobble up all the swirling small fishes. Though BJP's vote share compared to 2014 election has come down from 17% to 10.2%, around 4.5% has depleted in Darjeeling Hill district, and it implies that there is no significant decline in Bengal proper, though Modi wave has subsided significantly. The Left-Congress combine instead of increasing their vote share shed 1% of their votes, compared to 2014. On the other hand, TMC has increased their margin by hefty 5%. This indicates that there was an overall trend of the common voters to swing towards TMC, and that was arrested to a little extent through media blitzkrieg against TMC. The left is pretending to pay deaf ear to the trend of decline that may lead to their decimation, because they have no clue for the trend-reversal beyond dwelling on the premise whether electoral relation with Congress was right or not. Why?

The welfarism and deficit budget is anathema to the neo-liberal policy of which BJP is now the champion. It was very much amusing to note that the lefts have been criticising the TMC for their populist welfarist measures as doles distribution and syndicate corruption. The implementation of welfare schemes cannot be absolutely corruption free so long as the vibrant people's movement does not build a mechanism of check and balance. Left could have played a role in building such movement to instill the sense that the welfare measures are the rights of the people, but instead they preferred to criticise the concept of welfarism itself. It is now amply clear that the TMC government could implement the various welfare schemes successfully at least in the eyes of the beneficiaries who voted for TMC' which is now obliged to continue such measures. The part of the left agenda has been snatched away by TMC, and left has been found to be crying foul in vain going against this basic policy frame.

How TMC will sustain this welfarism with mounting deficit budget, TMC itself does not know, because TMC does not have any alternative policy of industrialisation that can challenge neo-liberalism. But on this count also, TMC has positioned itself in the left-of-centre by citing the opposition to land acquisition for Singur consistently as its principled stand. On the contrary, left instead of being repentant for what they did in Singur and Nandigram to follow industrialisation a la neo-liberal model, they arrogantly expressed vainglory for the industrial policy they followed and attacked TMC for Singur mess. This is a ridiculous stand of a party that waves red flag. The cadres who carry this red flag will not hesitate to change the hand to raise the saffron flag aloft, seeking refuge to a secured place from TMC attack will be their best excuse.

One of the best indicators to judge the secular democratic credential of ruling dispensation is to see how they treat the minorities in their state. Sachar Committee revealed volumes about the left negligence towards the Muslim Minority of Bengal. How Mamata has not only retained but also extended her base within minority is yet to be explored. But those who opine that the only through pecuniary support to Mullah/Moulavis Mamata could play this magic are missing the whole canvass of minority social milieu.

Finally, the main apprehension of TMC's switch over to BJP's camp that was aired by a section of left in the pre-election political discourse can be shelved at least for the time being for two important structural obligations of TMC. To establish the political clout at national level, Mamata has to retain her huge minority base by projecting her secular image, and she has to continue her welfare measures to retain her base in rural and semi-urban Bengal despite neo-liberal pressure. The alternative left politics may re-emerge in future through the framing of a people-oriented development model, extension of democracy and sustained mass struggle provided strong political opposition is built to combat fascism which is looming large.

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 50, Jun 19 - 25, 2016