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

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Rebuff after a Long Union

Apart from the great reversal, what explains the Left Front's long innings in office in West Bengal?

The electoral rout of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)led Left Front (LF) in the recently concluded legislative assembly elections was expected, and yet, it is perhaps one of the most unbelievable in its actuality. For many in West Bengal joked that the LF was a force of nature that could help or cause destruction, but which no one could do anything to avert. Most political commentary on the election results has been in a similar vein, deploying metaphors of nature and fatalism to describe the LF’s massive defeat. While it is true that mere antiincumbency cannot describe what we have witnessed in West Bengal, the use of such metaphors and analogies also indicates that there has been less analysis and more of a collective exhalation of breath at the coming to pass of an unbelievable event.

It is time that we now move a step back and invest a little more intellectual energy into understanding the basis of 34 years of a communist party-led government in a parliamentary system. This cannot be explained by monochrome concepts like rigging, or tyranny or even the takeover of the state by the party. For the critics of the LF, the people of West Bengal had been silently suffering under the domination of the CPI(M) and flocked to the first credible alternative which presented itself. Similarly, for its supporters, the only explanation for the CPI(M)’s uninterrupted control of Writers’ Building was the land reforms, local governance and the identification of a left wing electorate with the LF. It has been somewhat unfortunate that almost all those who have written in the past few weeks since the verdict of 13 May have fallen into either of these two positions depending on their political predilections (though the anti-CPI(M) position is, of course, now in preponderance).

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