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

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Chinks in the Left Front Armour

Elections to local panchayat bodies in West Bengal point to new setbacks for the Left Front. 

The results of the seventh panchayat general elections in West Bengal have thrown up a few setbacks to the ruling Left Front (LF) government in the state, even as the Front has retained power in 13 of the 17 zilla parishads (ZPs). For the first time since 1978, the LF has registered losses in the ZPs of East Midnapore, to which Nandigram belongs. The Trinamool Congress (in alliance with other smaller parties) was the winner both in East Midnapore as well as in South 24 Parganas, while the Congress retained Malda and gained a victory in North Dinajpur. The LF also suffered setbacks in Singur, where the government had acquired land for building the Tatas’ car factory and in South 24 Parganas, which saw pitched pre-election battles between the constituents of the Front itself.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led LF government’s industrial and land acquisition policy is the key to disentangle the reasons for this verdict. These policies emphasising the setting up of large private sector-led industrial projects on land acquired from rural areas has had a bearing over the elections. Disenchanted sections, such as the landless and the small peasantry, directly affected by the industrial policy have revolted or expressed their resentment against the policy. It has meant that wherever fertile land has been identified for transfer to industry and wherever the local leadership of the CPI(M) has used arrogant and insensitive means of implementing the land acquisition policy, the LF has received a severe jolt in the elections. This explains the loss of the LF in Singur and Nandigram, the hotspots of peasant discontent in recent times in the state as well as in the southern districts where plans of land acquisition have been in the offing. In Singur especially, the verdict flies in the face of the CPI(M)’s assertions that land acquisition went about smoothly with many peasants voluntarily accepting the terms of the transaction for the acquisition of their land.

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