West Bengal Elections: Changelessness for a Change!!

The progress of every second draws us closer to the D day in the hard fought state elections in West Bengal where the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is trying to consolidate its power in the soil of Bengal by displacing the Communist Party of India (Marxist) -CPI(M) led  Left Front govt. which has been ruling the state for the past 34 years. The CPI(M), on the other hand, appears to be struggling to hold on to their long held fortress to prevent being erased from Indian Politics. This interesting but hard fought battle is being fought on the parameter of change with each side trying to define the word to their own convenience.

While the TMC under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee is advocating a change in the government, CPIM’s rebuttal to this claim has been by appealing to people to vote CPI(M) back to power once again & thereby strip the opposition of its hypocrisy which would  refrain them from partisan politics in future. If this is what the both sides are preaching today, then we can be rest assured that this elections in West Bengal is nothing about change but merely a continuation of old policies (capitalism) but maybe under a different name!

Marxists Only in Name

West Bengal which had sworn in the CPI(M) led Left front government right after the dark ages of Emergency in India (1977), especially under ruthless state govt. of Siddhartha Shankar Ray that was hell bent on crushing the working class opposition, believing it (CPI-M) to stand for  working class struggle & socialism. But 34 years later their duality stands exposed. The workers have little left to claim as their own. The crumbling health sector, fall in standards of major government universities including Calcutta University which once used to attract research scholars from all over nation and lack of employment opportunities are forcing the people to look for alternatives.

While the people of Bengal have long since questioned the pro capitalist policies of the CPI(M) govt. but what fuelled their anger was what they saw as betrayal of the peasantry (in Singur & Nandigram) on whose support the CPI(M) rode to power in the first place. It was followed by the revelation of involvement of corrupt officials close to the Chief Minister in the Rizwanur Rahman murder case. People seem to have had enough of the CPI(M) and questions have started to arise regarding CPI(M) and their political character. Their entire affiliation to Marxism was being questioned and what haunted them was the exploits of the portraits (Joseph Stalin, Mao) canvassed on the walls of CPI(M) party offices.

Most of the leadership was rendered clueless when ever interrogated on their practice of glorifying Joseph Stalin whose totalitarian regime was credited with several mass murders. Phrases such as “Katyn Masacre” and “Leningrad affair” seemed to put them off guard. And what was proving even more costly was the advent of a new generation of voters, born after the emergency, who were hardly the ideal prey for CPI(M)’s brain wash mechanisms. With easy access to information and literature in the age of computers and Internet they started learning the truth and questioning all authority that had long been passively imposed on them with a veil of Marxism. They were not ready to take the lies of the government and started detesting the notion of Stalin and alike being guard of Marxism.

The next big failure was to convince the voters with their idea of Peoples Democratic Revolution. The very first criticism of this idea was in the fact that it in no way includes a perspective for working class resistance & struggle for Socialism. By far the biggest failure of the CPI(M) led govt. was the failure to implement genuine land reforms & redistribution. The much touted Operation Barga was merely a facelift to the countryside which did not really alter the rural power relationship in favour of the peasantry by making them the real owners of the land.

The people had seen through the character of the West Bengal ruling class (Capitalism – Landlordism) and they had expected the Left party to affiliate with the working class struggle rather than indulging in investment from foreign multinationals like the Salem group. The Indian people have been betrayed by the left parties’ time & again in the name of bourgeois democratic revolution, which in reality was nothing more than capitulation to capitalism. It neither was nor is it easy to fool them again with dialogues that pursue hollow romanticism.

Character of the TMC

The TMC on the other hand had been exploiting the political instability of the CPI(M) government in Bengal. While CPI(M) was struggling hard to answer these questions, Mamata Banerjee was looking forward to capitalise by bolstering her party with further alliances with all sorts of groups. These groups have been varied since the inception of the TMC. While on one hand it has managed alliance locally with a few of the Stalinist variants of the CP’s like the SUCI, it has mainly been shifting loyalty between the communal BJP and the ruling Congress party. But the latest addition to this list has been the ultra left Maoist groups present around the tribal belts of West Bengal (Lalgarh).

This utterly unstable & suicidal alliance of the TMC & the Maoist will prove costly for both sides & the society at large in the long run. If anything, this alliance of the Maoist with a pro capitalist party like TMC, has once again proved that the Maoist have learned nothing from their past experience & if experience of the Maoist in Nepal & elsewhere is anything to go by, the same ideological confusion arising out of the stages theory of revolution seems to condemned them to the mistakes of their predecessors.

It is worthwhile to note that this nexus has been a very shady under the table which is as good as an open secret. Though Mamata Banerjee tries to appear as only a sympathiser in front of the media but the real truth remains that most of their bullets and guns used to usher a reign of terror on the peasantry & tribals has been financed directly from the Trinamool Congress Party exchequer.

While the TMC did see an increase in the number of seats in the Lok Sabha and also in Gram panchayats and municipalities over the state but now it was Mamata Banerjee’s turn to express ignorance by taking the population for granted. She in her ecstasy claimed the result to be an indication of change in which she herself was the replacement and her party electoral victories explained that the people were frustrated with communist ideas. But what she forgot can be classified in three points.

  1. It was a left minded vote that was conscious enough to distinguish black from white and CPIM from Marxism and the result was a symbol of protest against such hypocrisy and not in support of her.
  2. The people voiced their frustration and wanted to teach the government a lesson and not support Mamata Banerjee as such.
  3. The toilers now were much more conscious of their rights and they are in no mood of being taken for granted or compromising with what is their right.

However her mistake proved costly and the recent college elections as well as surveys show that the support received by the TMC during the last two years is on a decline.

Lack of a Real Alternative

But what is a matter of shame is the lack of alternative as such. Unfortunately it would either be the Marxists devoid of Marxism or the lady with the changing yet blinking lamp that will have to be vested the responsibility of the society where as such none of them subscribe to an agenda that strives to  empower the working class. So what will happen to the toilers? Should they practice the policy of settling for the less evil again and gamble with their rights and aspirations, which has been tragic part of their reality all their lives.

It would be hard to predict which party would come out victorious out of this political fallacy but what is important is that we must accept it for a fallacy in the first place. The entire election with not a single party with a working class outlook but 95% of the voters being from the same class cannot be regarded as anything else but an insensitive joke!! No doubt that the TMC would do better than the previous Assembly elections of 2006 but even the CPI(M) led Left front will improve on its count as compared to the whitewash in the past two years. In fact there might be a high possibility of a hung assembly on the 13th of May but the result of the election cease to be the most important issue here, but what is, is the concern for the society and its inhabitants who would not have what they want no matter whoever wins because the alternative that they are looking for is not contesting!!

Saptarshi Banerjee