ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

Several of the problems plaguing the Left Front in West Bengal are arising on account of the fade-out of ideology or philosophical belief. The Front is no longer the collage of passion and resistance to authoritarianism that it was a quarter of a century ago. Its fervour for reorienting centre-states relations, in case necessary even rewriting the Constitution, is also no longer a part of the Front's hidden or open agenda. Iron has entered the soul.

Bizarre is the only expression which fits recent developments in this neighbourhood. The facts involved can be easily summarised. The current political situation in West Bengal is such that no party, except the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress – or perhaps its Trinamul version – will be able to save the security deposit should it venture to fight on its own an election or a by-election in any of the 294 state assembly constituencies in the state. In other words, polarisation has reached its ultimate point. The so-called Left Front was put together in the early seventies by a dozen parties: the Communist Party of India was not a constituent of the Front in the beginning, but joined it in the early eighties. Apart from the CPI(M), there was conceivably some mass base enjoyed by this or that Left formation.

The coming together of these formations had an important bearing on the struggles to counter the influence of the Indian National Congress. But facts shift over time. The contemporary reality is as stark as it can be: leave out the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the rest of the Front hardly matters any more. Perhaps in the early phase, such parties as the Revolutionary Socialist Party of India and the Forward Bloc could count on strong organised support across the state. That situation no longer exists. The consolidation of Left strength since 1977 has been accompanied by the deepening and widening of the influence of the CPI(M) and a corresponding relative erosion of the influence of the other Left parties constituting the Front. The Congress vote in the state, surprisingly or not, has remained stationary through the decades at around 40 per cent of the electorate going to the polls. The last Lok Sabha polls have led to the strengthening of a belief: most of the Congress following is in the process of migration to the party’s offshoot, the Trinamul Congress. Just as the traditional anti-Congress vote has solidified as the CPI(M)’s vote bank, the anti-Left Front or anti-CPI(M) vote too is consolidating within the fold of the Trinamul, although the trends are not overwhelmingly clear-cut. The general drift of the electoral mood is nonetheless without dispute. Barring one or two stray constituencies, any party, were it to put up a candidate of its own without the backing of either the CPI(M) or the Congress (or its spitting image, the Trinamul), will face disaster. There is, in other words, little scope for any third force in the state at this juncture.

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