End of an era: Left no longer right for Bengal voters

Posted on May 13, 2011


KOLKATA: Everyone knew that the Titanic was sinking. The end came on Friday as a natural sequel to the rising anti-incumbency displayed in the couple of elections in Bengal since 2008 – panchayat, Lok Sabha and municipal polls. Mamata Banerjee made history on Friday with her party romping home to victory, far crossing the single majority quotient. It marked the end of the 34-year communist rule and a break from the stifling status quo resting on political patronage.

The Trinamool landslide displays the victory of the public against the regimented party hegemony tearing into the CPM in most of its strongholds – West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia, and north Bengal – that shut their windows to the winds of change in 2009. The young and old pressed the EVM buttons with vengeance consigning the CPM’s “turnaround script” to history.

The Left Front drew a blank in as many as four districts – Kolkata, Howrah, East Midnapore and Darjeeling – and did miserably in Hooghly, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas. The Opposition also overtook the Left Front in Coochbehar and South Dinajpur in north Bengal.

The high and mighty in the CPM namely Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Nirupam Sen, Gautam Deb, Asim Dasgupta were left to bite the dust in the rising Mamata surge. Sensing the mood, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee put in his papers at Raj Bhavan, hours before his defeat from Jadavpur was formally declared. Surjyakanta Mishra, Abdur Rezzak Molla, Susanta Ghosh, are among the handful to have made it to the assembly.

The tell tale signs were there since the 2008 panchayat elections. The dissenting curve kept shooting in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and took a shape in the 2010 polls. The 2011 Assembly elections stand out in more ways than one. It confirms the anti-Left inertia following the Newton’s first law, and more it transformed into a pro-Mamata wave that the party managers in Alimuddin Street, far removed from the reality, were unable to comprehend.

CPM leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee could sense the undercurrent. Bhattacharjee made a desperate attempt to minimise the public disgust with his frequent apologies. But he was overshadowed by his colleague Gautam Deb who went on the aggressive that had little effect beyond the Left periphery. On the contrary, Deb’s theatrics helped to consolidate the anti-Left vote that was already taking a shape.

The arrogance was swept away in the pro-Mamata wave as were the efforts by a section of dissident Congressmen to queer Mamata’s pitch in Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia. Congress presidentSonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rang Mamata Banerjee at his Kalighatresidence to congratulate her. Mamata attributed her party’s victory as “Bengal’s freedom from the yoke of the 34-year CPM rule.”

However, the challenges Mamata would be facing while running the government are no less. First among them is to put an end to the bloodletting in the districts. Second is the financial morass that Bengal is steeped into. These two are a major hurdle to her development vision. And third, Mamata has to tackle the Maoist threat in Jangalmahal and also the adivasis and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the Hills. It’s good that all the men in didi’s dream Cabinet such as Amit Mitra, Manish Gupta, Bratya Basu, Partha Chatterjee have got elected.

Saugata Roy, TNN | May 13, 2011, The Times of India