Friday, May 23, 2008

Does CPM know the art of damage control? Let CPM lick its wounds.

Does CPM know the art of damage control? Let CPM lick its wounds.

Kolkata, Telegraph, Issue Date: Saturday , May 24 , 2008
Panchayat cloud on 10 LS seats of Left

Calcutta, May 23: If voting patterns in the Lok Sabha polls due in a year follow the panchayat trend, the Left would lose around 10 seats, snipping its tally to 25, below the score in 1984 that remains the lowest point in the past 30 years.

After a preliminary study of the panchayat results, where the gap at the lowest level of the three-tier system has narrowed dramatically from over 1500 to just above 200, the CPM fears the Left will lose eight to 10 seats. Trinamul believes the Opposition can wrest 11.

An MP and a central committee member of the CPM said: “Looking at the panchayat results, there could be a possibility of losing between eight and 10 parliamentary seats. But a detailed study has to be made.”

At the gram panchayat — the lowest— level, the CPM’s tally stands at 1,562 panchayats and the Opposition’s at 1,340, according to figures collected individually from district magistrates today.

The numbers mentioned in yesterday’s edition were given to the media by CPM state secretary Biman Bose. There are differences between the two sets of figures but they do not change the fundamental lesson emerging from the results: that the Left has taken a hard knock.

The CPM has estimated the possible loss of Lok Sabha seats from Trinamul’s massive victories in East Midnapore and South 24 Parganas and what it calls an “inexplicable’’ rise in the number of panchayat samiti seats won by that party in North 24 Parganas, Nadia and Howrah — all in south Bengal.

Hannan Mollah, an MP of the CPM, admitted that the party could lose some Lok Sabha seats “but there won’t be any sea change as the Trinamul Congress thinks. Moreover, panchayat polls should not be compared with parliamentary elections.”

It may be true that voters’ considerations in a parliamentary poll are different but Trinamul is claiming a “major swing against the CPM’’. Partha Chatterjee, the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, said: “We (Trinamul) have won several panchayat samiti and gram panchayat seats in areas where our party had not been able to penetrate for years. We think that at least 11 Lok Sabha seats can be wrested from the Left.”

Poll researcher Dwaipayan Bhattacharyya agreed that voters do not treat Assembly or Lok Sabha polls the way they do local bodies elections. “The vote shares have to be seen to find out whether there would be any change in the ruling party’s strength.”

The CPM has based its extrapolation of the panchayat results to the Lok Sabha by calculating the vote shares of the Left and the Opposition in every polling booth where Trinamul has fared well or put up a “respectable performance”, said a party leader.

Having worked out the percentage shares of the Left and the Opposition, the CPM has allotted the votes according to Lok Sabha constituencies to see the impact.

CPM state committee member Rabin Deb said the party conducted a booth-wise survey of votes secured by the Left and the Opposition after every election.

“A preliminary study of the districts where the Opposition met with success can be an indication of future trends. But Lok Sabha polls are a long way off and it would be premature to comment on our party’s prospects.”

The Lok Sabha constituencies that Trinamul is eyeing, encouraged by the panchayat results, are Barasat, Basirhat, Contai, Tamluk, Diamond Harbour, Mathurapur, Jadavpur, Joynagar, Krishnagar, Uluberia and Nabadwip.

A CPM central committee member admitted that these constituencies could pose problems for the Left but expected the situation to change as “our party knows the art of damage control”.

GP results rub it in

Statesman News Service (May 24, 2008)

KOLKATA, May 23: For the first time since the Left Front introduced the panchayati raj system in the state in 1978, it lost control of nearly 50 per cent of the gram panchayats this time, signifying that nearly half of rural Bengal has turned its face away from the Marxist-led regime.

A clear picture emerged today as results of the 3,220 gram panchayats were declared. The LF won 1,585 GPs while the Opposition dramatically surged ahead notching up a victory in 1,498 GPs. The results in 137 GPs have been either a tie or hung.

The LF had won 2,303 GPs in the 2003 elections routing the Opposition which managed to bag only 897 GPs, whereas the number of GPs where the results were a tie or hung was only 20. The LF's lowest tally of GPs before was 56 per cent in 1998 and the highest 72 per cent in 1988. Its share ranged between 56 and 70 per cent during the six consecutive terms that it held sway over the panchayats.

The comfort that the CPI-M drew from its victory in 13 of the 17 Zilla Parishads when the results first started pouring in two days back, was eroded by serious worries yesterday when the Opposition won 89 panchayat samities against the LF tally of 189, showing that the ruling combine's grip on the rural vote bank was loosening.

But today, the illusory success in the ZPs turned into a nightmare with the GP results making it clear that nearly half the political space in rural Bengal ~ which has hitherto been the LF's mainstay ~ has been captured by the Opposition. The results sent such shock-waves down the spine of the CPI-M that its state leadership immediately started wooing the junior partners whom it had treated shabbily and insolently during the run-up to the poll.

State industries minister Mr Nirupam Sen was summoned to Alimuddin Street in the afternoon. It was the duo of Mr Sen and the chief minister who were the chief architects of the skewed industrialisation policy that has proved the LF's undoing in the rural poll.

The CPI-M state secretary and LF chairman, Mr Biman Bose, had even taunted that the junior partners saying that it was misplaced confidence that was spurring them

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