West Bengal: Is the Left on its deathbed? | India News
Not only had the left parties combined been left blank in the assembly polls that they had conducted with an overwhelming majority for 34 long years, but their share of the vote had dropped to a mere 5.47 percent in 2021, up from 30.1 percent in 2011 when they lost the election to Trinamool Congress’s supreme giant Mamata Banerjee.
CALCUTTA: A graffiti on a central wall in Calcutta read “Long live Marxism.” Someone with a wry sense of humor had cut out the word “alive” and had written “dead” at the top.
The results of the vote count cast last week in the crucial West Bengal elections seemed to confirm this.
Not just the combined Left parties were left blank in the assembly polls they had conducted with an overwhelming majority for 34 long years, their share of the vote had dropped to a mere 5.47 percent in 2021, down from 30.1 percent in 2011 when they lost. the elections before Trinamool Congress supreme Mamata banerjeeJuggernaut.
In the clash of the titans where the TMC He was in a direct fight with the BJP in most constituencies, the once all-powerful left seems to have been squeezed into oblivion.
Even in the 2016 Assembly Elections, the left parties had managed to obtain 25.69 percent of the polled votes.
“We lost because other factors such as anti-incumbency were overridden by people’s anxiety to prevent the BJP from capturing Bengal,” admitted Nilotpal Basu, a member of the CPI (M) Politburo and former Rajya Sabha MP.
Analysts said the TMC victory was due in part to a gain of at least five percent of popular votes that normally go to the left, as voters chose to ignore issues such as corruption in order to exercise their right to vote against. the BJP.
“In 2019, when the BJP won 18 seats in the Lok Sabha and took around 40 percent of the votes cast, the left and Congress gave ground to the right-wing party, this time the left-wing votes went to the TMC” said Dipankar Bhattacharya. , General Secretary of the CPI (ML) – Liberation Party that came out with a ‘Don’t Vote for the BJP’ campaign.
Bhattacharya, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Statistics, and his team have been researching the recently concluded elections at his office in the Creek Row area.
The sharp drop in votes has dismayed CPI (M) cadres, and the party’s central leadership will review the election results to analyze what went wrong and chart a future course of action.
Even Jadavpur, long nicknamed “East Leningrad,” which has chosen a left-wing candidate in every election since 1967 except once, fell before the Trinamool attack.
To alleviate the humiliation, veteran CPI (M) leader Sujan Chakraborty lost by a margin of almost 40,000 votes to a little-known TMC rookie in one seat, where the left was said to “win even if the party threw a lamp”. pole with the sign of the hammer and sickle “.
“The voting patterns of the city of Calcutta show that the people decided to stop the BJP and chose to gravitate towards the TMC. It is a limited mandate of the left liberal-secular opinion against the BJP,” Basu said, adding that ” the ruling party should not treat it as its vote. As the forces of the left consolidate, it will regain this share of votes. ”
However, independent analysts do not believe that recovering voting quotas is an easy task for left-wing parties led by the CPI (M).
“The crisis facing the left is deeply ingrained. The drop in its share of votes is just one indicator of a deeper malaise,” said Rajat Roy, a political analyst and member of the think tank Calcutta Research Group.
The fall of the left is underscored by the fact that just 17 years ago it was the third-largest party with 59 MPs from the 543-member Lok Sabha, with 35 seats coming from West Bengal alone.
Since then, its influence over the electorate has been reduced to a situation where it has no West Bengal deputies in the Lok Sabha.
Only the percentage of votes for CPI (M) has fallen in recent years from 19.75 percent in the 2016 assembly polls to 6.34 percent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when a whispering campaign “chup chap padma phoole chaap “(secret ballot for BJP) saw a portion of its voters lean towards the BJP in reaction to TMC’s attitude to the left.
In 2021, the IPC (M) managed to get just 4.73 percent of polled votes as the pendulum swung towards the TMC.
“The once revolutionary party that gained popularity thanks to peasant movements and trade union militancy has been living in a cocoon for a long time. Since the 1990s, instead of mass contact movements, it has relied on party apparatuses. like Laksman Seth from Haldia and Anil Basu from Hooghly to cast votes. Their decline now defines the left’s control over voters, “Roy said.
The PCI (M), which came to power in 1977 after a popular uprising against the brutal repression of the Naxal movement, industrial stagnation, and the emergency excesses of then Prime Minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, had also not been up to the standards. people’s expectations with their inability to create jobs, foster industry, and lower standards of public education and health.
Yet isolated from the two great political upheavals that rocked India in the 1990s, the Mandal upheaval and the Ram Mandir upheaval and devoid of strong opposition, Bengal remained a unique left-wing citadel, even as communism it collapsed in Eastern Europe and embraced capitalism in China.
The rise of Mamata Banerjee’s raucous smart street policy in the late 1990s and 2000s, which used popular movements against the eviction of street vendors in Kolkata, agitations against land acquisitions in Singur and Nandigram, severely challenged on the left.
“The connection with the common people, which was their seal (of the left) was broken … the leaders of the PCI (M) lived in a world of doctrine, while the lower cadres reaped the achievements of the positions”, explained Roy .
By 2011, Banerjee had violated the ‘Red Keep’ and by 2021, the left was misinterpreting the minds of its voters, Bhattacharya claimed.
“The traditional left completely misinterpreted the situation in these elections … they should have seen the meaning of the battle for Bengal. Here, we had a party backed by RSS, a ‘fascist’ organization, who wanted to capture Bengal. However, they invented slogans that equated the BJP and TMC, and called them “two sides of the same coin. This did not convince even his own people,” he said.
The CPI (ML) -Liberation leader felt class concerns where “the poor viewed the BJP as a rich men’s party”, gender concerns raised by comments about “love the Jihad and Romeo squads” and “Bengali identity issues” united voters against “try to polarize them into community.”
The electoral alliance of the left with the new Indian Secular Front led by a conservative Islamic cleric, known for his controversial comments, was also not well received by left liberals. “The link with Abbas Siddique just backfired,” Bhattacharya said.
Analysts believe that the left now has to reinvent itself and return to mass contact movements to remain relevant.
The cadres of left-wing student unions, which were deployed to districts of South Bengal to campaign for the new faces of the CPI (M), such as the president of the JNU Student Union, Aishe, are expected to Ghosh, and the party’s youth wing state chairwoman Minakshi Mukherjee, lead the mobilization necessary to bring him back to settling.
“Our young candidates have a relatively good share of the vote … they are our hope,” Basu said.
According to data compiled based on figures from the Electoral Commission, the left had recorded its best show in south-east Bengal, where it received almost nine percent of popular votes. This is also the region where most of the young faces were displayed.
“Let’s see what lessons the left draws from its defeat. We have to step up our role,” Bhattacharya said. While Roy added, “… the key is massive connections, no party can survive without mass movements.”