The population of Bengal woke up to joyous news on the day of the results for the 15th Lok Sabha elections, as the Left Front, which has managed to get into the wrong books of a major part of the Bengali population, received a crashing blow winning a mere 15 seats in the Parliament as opposed to the Trinamool Congress- National Congress alliance’s 25 and ended a three decade-long Communist rule in the state.
It goes without saying that the Left has single-handedly engineered its defeat, and what is more, the previously excessively popular party has managed not only to alienate the peasants and workers, the quarters they were known to champion the cause of, but also the crucial minority community vote-bank as well as their learned allies- the intellectuals. The party has been committing unforgivable blunders in the name of industrialization, a concept they were ever-ready to protest against in their initial years at the helm, by illegal acquisition of land and state-sponsored violence by party workers since late 2006.The first blunder made in Singur, where they pushed quite determinedly, albeit unsuccessfully, to set up a Tata Motors production plant for a small car called Nano, and then, fatefully, a second blunderin Nandigram, where the hapless villagers protesting against land acquisition for a chemical hub, were made victims to a pogrom engineered by the government. Later still, the violence in Lalgarh-an Adivasi area in Midnapore, triggered by a landmine blast attempted at Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya (who is the Minister of Police as well as the Minister of Culture of the State) by Maoist forces of the area and the subsequent harassment of the Adivasis (which, of course, had become more of a habit with the villagers of the area for long) by the police and party workers, has exposed beyond a shade of doubt the true nature of the supposed representatives of the mazdoor ,the kisan and other deprived communities of the State.
Nandigram, with its sizable Muslim population, had already started to break through the non-communal façade of the Party when Taslima Nasreen was compelled to leave Bengal by them as she apparently endangered the communal harmony of the State. The mysterious circumstances under which a Muslim youth Rizwanur Rehman passed away or was compelled to take his own life due to differences with his father-in-law, a politically powerful industrialist Ashok Todi, also stank of party and police involvement. Even heavy political pitching of Muslim CPI (M) leader Mohammed Salim in the important constituency of North-East Kolkata failed to lure the powerful minority community of Bengal into the fold of the Left, a self-appointed critic of the communal antics of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and upholder of secular values.
The last nail in the coffin for the Left came with a sizable group of intellectuals, a quarter of the society supposedly very close to the culture-loving CM, taking up a strong stand against the state of affairs. A mammoth rally by intellectuals in protest of the Nandigram carnage on November 15, 2007 in Kolkata, where one lakh people walked amidst sloganeering and songs, broke the Party’s illusion of being a favourite of the intellectuals. Noted writers, authors, singers filmmakers and most importantly, innumerable students, office goers, professors and the average man on the street, all joined this rally. As a reaction the Party, juvenile as it was, came out bitterly, with party luminaries Binoy Konar and Biman Bose lashing out with inappropriate language, busting their well-crafted myth of the CPI(M) being a cultured party as opposed to the disorganized anarchist tendencies of the Trinamool Congress. Days before the elections, Urban Development and Municipal Affairs minister Ashok Bhattacharya, in an interview for a television channel sat with a list of intellectuals, who had supposedly got concessions from the government in the manner of discounts for their land plots etc. and criticized them for speaking out so strongly against the hand that fed them. The obvious question was asked, “Does seeking help from the government mean supporting them even if they are killing innocent people in the villages?” The Left had forever lost this powerful group of intellectuals, including internationally acclaimed authors like Mahashweta Devi and Nabaneeta Dev Sen as their allies.
It is indeed heartening to see the people of West Bengal, known for their political dispositions, teach the Party which had been in power for too long a lesson, which it needed to learn. A wobbly government led by a temperamental woman like Mamata Banerjee (whose mercurial demeanor has often been attributed to her gender by the communists) is indeed better than an organized but tyrannical one, simply because it is more of a fresh start, where the people might get a chance to truly participate in the politics of the State without living in the fear of the murderous Party machinery.