Wednesday, May 21, 2008

...etai CPM-er sesher suru -- Mamata

Ashis Chakrabarti's article on panchayat election 2008 results in Telegraph, Kolkata, 23 May 2008 ignores facts:
Gram Panchayats: 1479 oppn., 1597 LF (2303 in 2003 elections)
Panchayat Samitis: 126 oppn, 183 LF (265 in 2003 elections)

Editor of Telegraph should ask Ashis should learn arithmetic.

...etai CPM-er sesher suru -- Mamata

How CPM captured, and holds on to rural Bengal
By Nitish Sengupta (Deccan Chronicle, 22 May 2008)

In the past week or so, during the panchayat elections in West Bengal, the CPI(M) cadre in Nandigram, Khejuri, Keshpur and many other pockets in the state have gone crazy violating criminal laws and constitutional rights in order to retain their physical control over their areas of influence. The CPI(M) men committed murders, raped women on a very visible scale and physically prevented independent intellectuals and human rights workers from visiting Nandigram — including such well-known persons as filmstars Aparna Sen and Saoli Mitra, not to speak of political leaders like Mamata Banerjee. The CPI(M)’s Lok Sabha MP for that region has openly entered into verbal confrontation with the commanding officer of the CRPF in the area, actually threatening him in the face of television cameras. They have physically beaten large numbers of men and women, snatched their voter identity cards and confined them to their homes in an attempt to prevent them from going to the polling booths to cast their votes. All this has happened in the open, with the CPI(M) leadership not showing any sign of remorse or regret, or even trying to reassert control over their belligerent cadre.
People often wonder how the CPI(M) has been able to retain control over rural West Bengal for as long as three decades. The answer lies in the fact that they have been making full use of the resources of the panchayati raj institutions gifted to them unwittingly by Rajiv Gandhi, who introduced the practice of giving direct finances from the Centre to the panchayats and even amended the Constitution for this purpose. Since that time the CPI(M) has retained full control on the panchayat elections so that they can directly gain access to its great resources and can claim that all the welfare and development measures undertaken by the panchayats, many of them coming from the Centre, are actually being done by their party. Unlike most other states, the CPI(M), after coming to power in West Bengal during a phase of absent-mindedness by the people in 1977, started the practice of fighting panchayat elections on a political basis and getting control over the panchayats, which they have not given up since then. To help them to win elections they resorted to making their cadre take physical control over vast rural areas. Ordinary voters are simply not allowed to vote. At times non-CPI(M) candidates are prevented by physical force from submitting their nominations, thereby ensuring the election of a large number of CPI(M) candidates unopposed. In order to retain this physical control, the cadre has been armed to the hilt, having their own guns, bombs, swords, spears and other weapons, which they use without any restraint against their political opponents. The police force has been politicised to an extent unknown anywhere else in this country. Most of the policemen recruited in West Bengal over the last two decades are CPI(M) cardholders or at least CPI(M) sympathisers, as are schoolteachers in the districts. Politically subservient station house officers have been posted in all thanas. They do not register any criminal complaint without a nod from the local CPI(M) boss. They even refuse to register FIRs in the normal course, although they are under obligation to do so under the Criminal Procedure Code. It is the secretary of the local CPI(M) unit, popularly known as the LCS, who is the main power centre in rural areas. Even ministers look for his recommendation in most cases. There has thus been a massive politicisation and criminalisation in rural areas of West Bengal. In every parliamentary constituency, the CPI(M) takes care to retain one Assembly segment under its tight physical control so that no matter how voters elsewhere vote, nearly 100 per cent polling in favour of their candidate in this segment usually ensures the victory of the CPI(M) candidate.
Strangely enough, the leadership of the CPI(M) in West Bengal, outwardly known as bhadralok leaders for their culture and intellect, choose to turn a blind eye towards the criminal activities of their cadre and the widespread violation of constitutional provisions and fundamental rights, as well as the usual provisions in our criminal law ensuring human rights. This explains why, unlike their counterparts in Kerala who know how to court defeat once every five years or so, the CPI(M) in West Bengal has never known defeat and has been uniformly successful in all elections to the Lok Sabha, the Assembly and panchayats over the last three decades. It is an amazing case where the proletariat of Karl Marx fell victim to Lenin’s party, and Lenin’s party in turn fell victim to the Stalinist and Maoist cadre. One does not know when West Bengal is going to be rescued from this captivity, which has destroyed its spirit, intellect and culture for several generations, not to speak of the steady economic decline which has downgraded what was once the foremost state of India during the halcyon days of Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy into one of the most backward states in the country.
Today the CPI(M) stands isolated not only from the intellectuals, artists and other right-thinking sections of the people, but also from its own political allies like the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the Forward Bloc within the Left Front. Even the CPI(M) patriarch, Jyoti Basu, who built the United Front from scratch, lamented that the Left Front today is as good as non-existent. There are reports of armed clashes between the CPI(M) on the one hand and its allies in the Left Front on the other, leading to the death of people and destruction of property. It is only the CPI(M)’s cadre in the rural areas, a law unto themselves, who are sustaining their political party in power.
Dr Nitish Sengupta, an academic and an author, is a former Member of Parliament and a former secretary to the government of India CPM captured, and holds on to rural Bengal

Issue Date: Thursday , May 22 , 2008
Nandi Payback
CPM bleeds in land-and-minority backlash; loses 3 councils, gains 1

Calcutta, May 21: The Left today suffered the biggest poll jolt since the 2001 Assembly verdict as it lost two districts to Mamata Banerjee and one to the Congress in the panchayat polls, raising the question whether land acquisition for industry was exacting a heavy political cost.

Shaken though it was by the loss of Nandigram-scarred East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas, the CPM announced: “There will be no going back on the policy of industrialisation.”

Murshidabad was its sole — and big — revenge on the Opposition as it won the district back from the Congress, but it had only 13 of the 17 zilla parishads (district councils) in the bag compared with 15 in 2003.

Land acquisition for industry was an issue in the two south Bengal districts of East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas, though not in North Dinajpur, where the Left could not forge unity among its constituents.

In East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas, both heavily minority-dominated districts, fears over losing land took a religious colour, fed by the discontent among the minorities brought out by the Sachar Committee report.

East Midnapore gained notoriety because of the prolonged violence in Nandigram over an aborted land acquisition attempt while South 24-Parganas will be the site for large projects to be built by the Indonesian Salim group.

In neighbouring North 24-Parganas, which the Salim road project will touch and where notices for land acquisition have been issued, the Left won by the thin margin of three, with Mamata’s score having soared from two to 16.

The results in West Midnapore, Burdwan, Bankura and Purulia, where too large tracts of land have been taken over for industry, are a warning against jumping to the conclusion that the panchayat verdict is a slap in the face of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s industrialisation drive.

In all four districts, the CPM has not only won but has posted huge victories, even improving on its 2003 tally in some cases. The difference, however, is that in these four districts, there was no controversy over acquiring land.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee refused comment on the results.

Benoy Konar, the CPM state secretariat member who addressed the media today instead of the party’s Bengal secretary Biman Bose, said: “It will be simplistic to infer that people voted against industrialisation. We failed to convince farmers in these two districts (East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas) where people have apprehensions about losing land.”

The apprehensions overrode expectations of benefits from the showpiece Tata small-car project at Singur, where the CPM lost all three zilla parishad seats to Trinamul. In 2003, the CPM had won the three but had lost the Assembly seat to Trinamul in 2006.

If Nandigram led to the loss of East Midnapore for the CPM, the party won Hooghly, of which Singur is a part, though not with the ease of 2003. Trinamul opened its account in the district, grabbing 11 seats.

Mamata was distributing rasogollas after the results became known, finding a reason to smile after two consecutive routs in the 2004 Lok Sabha and the 2006 Assembly polls, which halved her 2001 MLA count of 60.

“Jene rakhoon, etai CPM-er sesher suru (Make no mistake, this is the beginning of the CPM’s end),” she said.

“In 2003, we had only 16 zilla parishad seats. But this time we have been able to wrest not only two zilla parishads on our own but even won over 120 zilla parishad seats.”

Mamata interpreted the results as a “mandate against state-sponsored terrorism”, but added that the people had also voiced their protest against the move to “grab farmland from the poor in the name of industrialisation”.

The chief minister can expect more trouble arising out of this conclusion for his industrialisation programme. Trinamul said it would not “allow the administration to take away an inch of land from unwilling farmers”.

Although the Congress lost Murshidabad, the victory in North Dinajpur was being seen as an achievement for Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, the Union minister who had called on Congress supporters to vote for the strongest candidate in their areas, even if it meant backing Trinamul.

If this led to an informal coming together of anti-Left forces in North Dinajpur, the Left itself was bitterly divided in the district, as it was also in South 24-Parganas.

Not just Singur and Nandigram, CPM gets battered across rural West Bengal

Bidyut Roy

Posted online: Friday, May 23, 2008 at 0044 hrs IST

Kolkata, May 22
The CPM is facing an unprecedented dent in what it has long taken for granted, its support in the rural areas in West Bengal. The trickle of defeat during Wednesday’s counting of the panchayat polls at the Zilla Parishad (district council) level turned into a flood today when results of the lower tiers emerged.

The battering of the CPM was not restricted to Nandigram or Singur but was evident across the state. In Nandigram, it lost not only the Zilla Parishads but all the ten Gram Panchayat (GP) seats to the Trinamool and of the 16 GP seats in Singur, the Trinamool has won 15 and only one has gone to the CPM. In both these places, the CPM was dominant the last time.

By late tonight, the verdict was clear: although the Left has kept its control over a majority of the seats at all levels, it has received its worst setback ever. The Left Front won 1,633 of the 3,220 Gram Panchayats in the state, down from its 2003 tally of 2303.

The Opposition won 1,463 GPs , with the Trinamool bagging the major share, almost three-quarters. In the 2003 Panchayat elections, the Opposition had got barely 917 GPs.

Of the 329 Panchayat samitis (the middle tier), the Left Front had won 284 and the Opposition 45 in 2003. This year, however, the Left’s tally shrunk to 189 while the Opposition surged to 140.

A stunned CPM was groping for answers. Said Left Front chairman and CPM veteran Biman Bose: “We have to discuss why this grievance accumulated to such an extent...Our arrogance, ego and deviations —- we must study if these were factors...We will review whether the functioning of our Panchayats is to blame for the results. There may have been some deviations.”

“People have not liked our style of functioning and we will have to take a lesson, but that does not mean they have voted against industrialisation,” Minister for Commerce and Industries Nirupam Sen said today. “There is no rollback in our industrialisation policy but we have been unable to communicate properly the benefits of industrialisation. People misunderstood us. However, we have begun rectifying it and the process started much before the panchayat results. This is a long process and we are taking several measures to address this.”

So strong was the anti-incumbency that Trinamool Congress won in several areas where it didn’t campaign, including districts where Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee didn’t visit.

For example, three “Sabhadhipatis” lost elections in Nadia, North and South Dinajpur districts. The “Sabhadhipatis” are the chairmen of the Zilla Parishad and an epitome of power, authority and clout. Normally, top district level party leaders occupy the chair.

The anti-incumbency factor was also visible in far-off areas like Coochbehar or closer to home in Howrah and Birbhum. In Coochbehar, two panchayat samitis were won by the Trinamool for the first time. Similarly in Birbhum, considered a traditional Left bastion, the Opposition wrested five Panchayat Samitis from the ruling Left. On an average, one panchayat samiti controls about 10 Gram Panchayats.

In Howrah, though the CPM managed to retain control of the Zilla Parishad, it suffered a huge setback in the middle tier. Of a total of 14 Panchayat Samitis in the district, the Trinamool won 10.

A jubilant Mamata, who had not expected such results, said: “The results show how much the people are angry with them. The people have taught them a lesson, but they never learn.”

Zilla Parishads Oppn. 230 LF 518 (622 in 2003)
Panchayat Samitis Oppn. 140 LF 189 (284 in 2003)
Gram Panchayats Oppn. 1463 LF 1633 (2303 in 2003)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Issue Date: Friday, May 23 , 2008

Policy at risk, not politics Govt faces twin thorns


Bengal’s panchayat poll results have thrown up fewer surprises than would immediately strike one. That the CPM would suffer major reverses and the Trinamul Congress make some gains, especially in Nandigram and Singur, was always on the cards.
The real surprise is that the Nandigram-Singur wave did not sweep the Marxists off their feet in larger parts of Bengal. Even so, the results could mean much trouble for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his party.
No one can grudge Mamata Banerjee her moments with rasogollas. But, the sweets notwithstanding, the results could not have come without a sour taste too. After all, these were no mere Nandigram-Singur elections.
After she and the CPM had given their customary responses to the results, they could look at the political map of Bengal and see how little has changed. There is still the Hooghly river dividing the areas of influence — the west of the river is CPM territory and the much smaller part in its east, part of south Bengal, is hers. One has only to recall the patterns of the last few elections to see how familiar the picture is.
In fact, the overall Bengal picture — the CPM winning 13 of the 17 zilla parishads — hardly indicates that this is the “beginning of the CPM’s end”, as Mamata has put it one more time.
The CPM’s critics would actually be disappointed with the results. These rural polls came at the crest of a wave of protests that featured issues ranging from the police firing and the Marxists’ terror tactics at Nandigram to the government’s bungling of one issue after another, especially the Rizwanur Rahman case, and the CPM’s isolation from its partners and Left liberals.
Also, between Nandigram and Rizwanur, the anti-CPM mood swayed Bengal’s large Muslim masses as on few occasions before.
Rarely in recent decades has Bengal seen such long and bitter spells of popular protests against the CPM. If Mamata and other opponents of the CPM have failed to make big benefits from this political upheaval beyond East Midnapore (courtesy Nandigram), Singur, South 24-Parganas and North Dinajpur (courtesy a new star on the horizon called Deepa Das Munshi), it does not spell very high hopes for the coming collapse of the CPM.
That is not to say, though, that the Marxists will be at peace with these results. They will have much to worry about the spread effect of these results in terms of space and time. More so because the next big battle they face — the Lok Sabha polls — is approaching.
The biggest and immediate worry for them, though, may not be the end of their rule in Bengal and with that their newfound role in Delhi, but the difficulty Bhattacharjee may face in governance.
Benoy Konar and other CPM leaders who said the results would have no impact on Bengal’s industrialisation were clearly trying to put a brave face on the Nandigram effect. The chief minister and his party would know how difficult it would be for them to push the industrial agenda, at least before the parliamentary polls.
It’s not just Mamata who would try and do everything to push her Nandigram advantage. It is possible that she will move into areas where land acquisition for new industries has been smooth so far and raise new battle cries. One such front could be in her newly acquired South 24-Parganas, where villagers have reached a consensus on giving their land for a ship-building project.
And, she would be encouraged to open new fronts in places like Burdwan, where she could take her “not an inch of farmland” cry to even state projects such as the proposed thermal power plant at Katwa.
Bhattacharjee will also have to face two sets of old adversaries on a new scale. His critics within the party, some leaders in Bengal and at the central committee, will now try to tie his hands even more than they had done before.
He — and the CPM — are sure to be under fresh pressure from parties like the RSP and the Forward Bloc. These partners have nothing to lose and much to gain from halting Bhattacharjee’s big leap forward for industrialisation. Such pressures may not be limited to issues of industrialisation — they will have their impact on other policy issues, the retail business and private investment in agriculture, for example.
It would thus be reasonable to expect the political temperature in Bengal to keep rising till the parliamentary polls. And that could mean a couple of more bandhs, more violence in the districts and more of many other things that are no help to industrialisation.