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

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The Left after the Elections

Now that the dust of the elections has settled, several questions need to be addressed by the Left, if it is to seriously think of chalking out its future. After its debacle in Kerala, will the Left now remain content with its electoral power confined to Tripura and West Bengal? In the rest of India, will it reconcile itself to the role of a minor ally of various regional and centrist parties? Shall we see more of spectacles like the CPI and the CPI(M) tying themselves to the apron strings of the likes of Laloo Yadav and Jayalalitha? Will they be seen on the same platform as the Shiv Sena and the RSS-led Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh in anti-WTO agitations, as witnessed recently in Maharashtra?

The margin by which the Left won the West Bengal assembly elections appears to be as surprising to newspaper readers as the margin by which it lost in Kerala. In Kerala, according to political commentators, the Left lost by such a margin because of the mire of corruption into which both its leaders and the state administration had sunk; division within the CPI(M); popular discontent with political violence; and the so-called Kerala syndrome of exchanging one ruling party for another every five years. But if these were the causes of the Left defeat in Kerala, all these factors (barring the last which is supposed to be peculiar to Kerala) were present in West Bengal too.

During the last two decades of Left rule in West Bengal, corruption had crept into every nook and corner of society, spreading from the traditionally notorious government departments to other sectors like education and medical care, and percolating down to the village level – a fact that will be confirmed even by Leftist sympathisers in the state. As for divisions within the Left in West Bengal, apart from tensions between big brother CPI(M) and the smaller parties, the CPI(M) itself suffered a split of sorts when one of its former MPs, Saifuddin Chaudhuri, quit the party along with a chunk of middle-ranking leaders and functionaries and contested the elections. Coming to the issue of political violence, if certain parts of Kerala had of late acquired notoriety for bloody clashes between the CPI(M) and RSS, in West Bengal the Midnapur belt had become no less notorious for similar clashes between CPI(M) and Trinamul Congress cadres on the eve of the elections.

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