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

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Assam Elections: Setback for the Left

The 2001 Assam assembly election was largely a two-party contest between the Congress and the AGP. The left, once a viable force was wiped out, but its downfall has been the result of its own blunders - continued support to a government seen as corrupt, espousal of non-issues and turning a blind eye to ground level realities.

he reverses suffered by the AGP-BJP combine and the return of the Congress in the Assam elections seem to have deflected attention from a development which should be of concern to all those involved in left politics in the country. This is the first time since independence that the left will go totally unrepresented in the Assam assembly. It has failed to secure a single seat in the 126-member house. Irrespective of the number of seats it has held, the left has always been a formidable presence in the Assam assembly right from the first general elections. In the 1952 polls, the socialists, the Krishak Mazdoor Praja Party and the CPI secured between themselves six seats (the house then had 108 seats) and got some 22 per cent of the total votes. In the 1957 elections, the vote share went up to 24 per cent and the Praja Socialist Party, the CPI and the RCPI between themselves secured 13 seats. The PSP won eight seats, with the CPI having four and the RCPI one. The proceedings of the Assam assembly were dominated by the communists and the socialists and they added much to raise the standard of the debates. Legislators like Gaurishankar Bhattacharyya of the CPI and Hareswar Goswami of the PSP are still remembered for their sharpness of argument and knowledge of politics. In the 1957 Lok Sabha elections, the CPI won two out of the 12 parliamentary seats, including the prestigious Guwahati seat. Up to the 1967 polls, either the CPI, the SP or the PSP was at least represented in the Lok Sabha. However, in the 1971, 1977, 1983 and 1985 polls, there was no representative of the left from Assam in the Lok Sabha. It was only in the 1991 polls that the CPI(M) candidate, Uddhav Barman, won from the Barpeta constituency.

However, the vote share of the left parties went down sharply in the 1962 assembly elections; the CPI failed to get a single seat in the assembly elections, though its vote share stood at some 6.5 per cent. In the same elections, the PSP secured six seats with almost 13 per cent of the votes, and the RCPI just a single seat with about 2 per cent. The total vote share of these parties was above 20 per cent. The 1967 elections saw a swing in favour of the left parties which secured 16 seats (CPI-7, SSP-4, PSP-5) in the assembly, with the PSP and the CPI winning a total of three parliamentary seats. The CPM which contested for the first time could not get any seat in the vidhan sabha but secured some 2 per cent of the votes. It was in the 1978 elections following the emergency that the left secured an all-time high of a total of 20 seats (CPM-11, CPI-5 and RCPI-4) in a house of 126. The CPM had made substantial gains while the former PSP and the socialists merged with the Janata Party which was voted to power in the state, resulting in the first non-Congress government in Assam since independence. The SUCI, RSP and the AIFB also contested these polls for the first time though they could not get any seats.

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