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

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Economics and Politics of Some Emerging Fault Lines in Rural West Bengal

Some key changes in the economic structure of rural West Bengal over the last decade are identifi ed, focusing in particular on changes in the relative importance of various sectors and classes. While explaining the decline of the left class organisations, these changes also help to understand the sources of the TMC’s strength and weaknesses.

The authors thank Sukanta Bhattacharya and Zaad Mahmood for helpful discussions.

Panchayat elections will be held in West Bengal (WB) soon. Going by the results of the 2021 assembly elections in the state, one might expect these elections to be a cakewalk for the Trinamool Congress (TMC), and a binary contest between it and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Both expectations might, however, be premature. In the municipal elections held soon after the assembly elections, the vote share of the Left-Congress combine increased significantly, while that of the BJP declined sharply, pushing the latter to the third place in many areas. In a by-election to an assembly constituency in south Kolkata last year, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI(M)s vote share increased from about 6% to over 30%. The left-supported Congress candidate won a by-election in an overwhelmingly rural assembly constituency in February 2023, increasing the combines vote share to over 47% from less than 20% in 2021. There has been a noticeable increase in the visibility of street protests by the CPI(M) as well, even as the main opposition partythe BJPhas been bogged down in internal quarrels and return migration to the TMC by quite a few of its high-profile leaders. However, the street presence of the CPI(M) has been largely due to its student and youth organisations. The class organisations of the leftits peasant, agricultural workers and trade union frontshave been quiet in comparison.

The purpose of this article is twofold. We first attempt to identify some key changes in the economic structure of rural WB over the last decade, focusing in particular on changes in the relative importance of various sectors and classes, that might explain the decline of the lefts class organisations. Second, building on this analysis, we seek to understand both the sources of the TMCs strength and its weaknesses in rural WB.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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