Category Archives: Politics

Bengal parties on foundation stone-laying, inauguration spree

Kolkata, Feb 27 (IANS) With dates for elections to the West Bengal assembly likely to be announced next week, political parties are on a spree of stone-laying ceremonies and inaugurations across the state.

The opposition Trinamool Congress is well ahead of the ruling Left Front in terms of number of programmes.

While party chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee busy in Delhi for parliament’s budget session, Trinamool MPs and state leaders were busy inaugurating various projects and the laying the foundation stones of various projects.

A renovated and air-conditioned indoor stadium of Eastern Railways was inaugurated by Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee and opposition leader Partha Chatterjee in Kolkata’s Behala area, while the foundation stone of Hooghly river beautification project was laid by Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy.

Trinmool MP Sudip Bandopadhyay laid the foundation stone of Kamardanga Halt station, while Minister of State for Rural Development Sisir Adhikari inaugurated the new computerised rail reservation centre at Egra area in East Medinipur district.

All these programmes had advertisements in various dailies across the state which screamed ‘with the initiative of Mamata Banerjee’.

Meanwhile, a new office of Housing Development Infrastructure Development Corporation (HIDCO) was inaugurated by Tripura Chief Minister and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member Manik Sarkar in Jyoti Basu Nagar area of North 24 Parganas district. The program was also attended by state Housing Minister Gautam Deb.

Source: Sify News


Divisive politics of West Bengal

Shikha Mukerjee: The Pioneer

Regime change in West Bengal is turning out to be a bitter political battle in which the Left Front and the Trinamool Congress are evenly matched. In the process, the State is rapidly descending into a spiral of violence.

Clean and effective Government seems to be what voters want. Voter satisfaction, it would appear, can be gained by providing the minimum that citizenship entitles the citizen to, if not uniformly and of a very high order, but nevertheless tangible and sustained, if the Pundits have correctly read the verdict in Bihar.

The attributes of clean and effective are difficult to identify, because expectations in India about what constitutes clean are probably based on a totally distorted idea of the requirements for probity in public life. The same is true of what constitutes effectiveness. One feature of what constitutes effectiveness, extrapolating from the Bihar verdict, appears to be basic law and order measured in terms of greater mobility of women and school going girls on bicycles.

Therefore, clean and effective boils down to a serious scaling down of the routines of bribery and corruption that public officials have engaged in historically in order to live beyond their official means and a stable law and order regime that allows people to feel reasonably secure, though not entirely risk free. In other words, some semblance of the rule of law has been re-established in the badlands of Bihar.

In contrast, the frequency of violent episodes and the spiralling death count in West Bengal indicates that the effectiveness of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front Government to deliver minimum law and order to its citizens has been seriously impaired. The death count provided by the CPI(M) of its own members and supporters in the Maoist infested areas of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia is over 280. Not a week goes by without a minimum of one more dead in either Binpur or Shalboni or Jhargram and now again Khejuri made famous during the confrontations over identifying Nandigram as a possible location for establishing a Special Economic Zone. Not a week goes by without some attack, even burning down of a political party’s office somewhere in the State. This is lawlessness.

The deliberate disruption of the normal is appalling. It is a shame that politics has grown so undemocratic in West Bengal, so violent and vicious that refugees of political violence returning home to Kamardah village in Khejuri block of West Midnapore district after months of a precarious existence in camps were attacked once again. The fate of the returning residents of Kamardah is to be forever victims of a political rivalry that is ugly and inhuman. Trapped between the CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress, the villagers are pawns to be moved around to serve the political purpose of ‘recapture’ or ‘sanitisation;’ if the CPI(M) stands accused of ‘recapture’ then the Trinamool Congress stands accused of ‘sanitising’ Kamardah and Khejuri of supporters of the CPI(M).

If the CPI(M) is accused of using armed cadres to cover the return of the political refugees, then so should the Trinamool Congress be accused of mobilising overwhelming counter force to prevent the return of the refugees. When political conflict between parliamentary parties reaches a point where force and counter force are the norm rather than the exception, then the one value that becomes debased is the minimum tolerance required in a democratic polity, When law and order is not delivered to the citizen as the minimum condition then no political party ought to be allowed to escape from the responsibility of vitiating the normal to the point that the abnormal becomes routine.

The clash of politics in West Bengal in the last 10 years has resulted in hundreds of deaths. It is incidental that the CPI(M) counts the number of its dead since May 2008 and estimates that about 280 have been victims of Maoist violence. Before 2008 there were political clashes. Ordinary people died. Of that 14 died in the police action in Nandigram. The remaining dead were victims of political clashes. In Nanoor in Birbhum 11 landless peasants died in 2000. In July 2010, Ananda Das, an ex-legislator died. In May Sanjay Ghosh and Al Amin Sheikh were killed.

The clash of politics in West Bengal in the last 10 years has resulted in hundreds of dwellings, be they so humble as mud huts, being burnt and trashed. The escalating numbers in the past five years of destruction and damage of private property reveals the deterioration of law and order. No political party can avoid being blamed for what has happened, because people whose homes were destroyed or damaged were supporters of different political parties. As the dominant political force in West Bengal, the CPI(M)’s share of the blame is greater. But the Opposition is not blameless.

The violence and destruction as a resultant of political conflict has meant a loss of the sense of security that is the fundamental right of every citizen in West Bengal. With fear as a factor, the quality of political life in the State has declined. The decline is not limited to the areas where the Maoists are active in spreading their particularly potent brew of barbarous beheadings, kangaroo courts, night raids and day-time cordons around villages and fields. The decline includes places where political intolerance is rampant, with territories being marked off as belonging to one party or the other.

However divisive the politics in West Bengal is, that does not constitute a reason for the absence of law and order and the fundamental right to a secure life for every citizen. Regime change in West Bengal is turning out to be a war, in which the Government side and the Opposition are evenly matched. History may compare the period after 2006 to West Bengal’s worst period of political turmoil, the period after 1968, when terror stalked the streets of Kolkata and nothing and nobody was safe.

West Bengal signals death of communism

By Mahendra Ved

THE road to the dictatorship of the proletariat, Vladimir Lenin once said, lay from Moscow to Beijing to Calcutta.

In 1890, Swami Vivekananda wrote in Adwaita Ashram Journal about the “beginning of a new era either in Russia or China”. He made no reference to India. India’s communists claim that Vivekananda’s views are similar to those of Karl Marx.

While Moscow demolished Lenin’s statues after seven decades of experiment, Beijing, though formally communist, has turned pragmatic, even capitalist, courting multinational corporations.

Indians are not given to breaking statues. Lenin’s statue, which adorns the main square of Calcutta, now Kolkata, may remain untouched. But the city from where the British once ruled large parts of Asia has just witnessed a political shocker that is a red signal for the Reds.

This month’s civic elections show that the communists, ruling West Bengal for a record 34 years, are in trouble. A series of setbacks for the comrades — from the village panchayat polls in 2008 through last year’s parliamentary elections — underscore the deep popular disenchantment with them.

Come the state assembly polls a year away, there is every chance that the Left Front might be defeated.

Squabbling communists also rule in Kerala. Going by the trend of power being won and lost every five years, it is their turn to lose.


Left Confused: Politics in West Bengal

The left was given massive mandates for seven successive terms in west Bengal. But, In the recent Municipal elections, the Left managed to win only 18 of the state’s 81 municipal councils. The left got much public support through the agrarian reforms of the 70’s. But, the benefits of the much famed land reforms weared off and they lost the support they had gained. Even sympathizers of the left find the horrors of Nandigram repulsive, writes Semu Bhatt in Southasia Online.

“For 33 years, the Left Front has been synonymous to West Bengal politics, with people having given it massive mandates for seven successive terms. However, on June 21st, when the Left Front entered into the 34th year of power in the state, the celebrations failed to hide the despair amongst the party members about a distinct possibility of the unthinkable – collapsing of the thus-far impregnable Leftist fort in the 2011 state assembly polls.”

“In the recent Municipal elections, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left plank managed to win only 18 of the state’s 81 municipal councils, 36 seats less than its 2005 tally.”

“What is alarming is the rate at which this slide has happened – after all, the Left had won the assembly polls of 2006 with a huge majority.”

“The Left front was built on the unwavering support it generated through major agrarian reforms starting late 70s – to an extent unseen in any other Indian state, and decentralization of power – much before the Indian Constitution encouraged it through 73rd and 74th Amendments. The Left Front enforced land ceiling and effected an equitable distribution of surplus land to small and landless farmers. It enumerated the sharecroppers and secured their rights to crop share and tilling tenure. With the government ensuring good irrigation facility and high quality seeds, West Bengal agriculture boomed. Unlike other agrarian success stories of India, the West Bengal green revolution was unique in the fact that it was based on a small farmer economy. This positively impacted poverty alleviation in the state. Approximately 60 per cent rural households in West Bengal benefited from the land reforms, earning a life-long loyalty of the farmers that kept the Leftists in power for so long.”

“The benefits of the much famed land reforms are wearing off and the second generation small farmers, who are increasingly finding agriculture an unviable option, are on a look out for jobs outside of it. To win back its farmer support base, the government has recently announced that it will buy land from willing farmers at much higher rate and redistribute it to the landless. By the look of it, however, this scheme appears more of an appeasement strategy to win back rural masses than an actual workable program.”

“While the Left fared much better than most of the Indian states in land reforms, it fared poorly in both, public and private industrial sectors. In 1947, West Bengal was one of the most industrialized states of India with a huge share of 24 per cent in total industrial production of the country. Due to a combination of factors – including lack of private interest and public investment, and freight equalization policy- West Bengal’s share had declined to 12 per cent by 1977 when Jyoti Basu came to power. In the following three decades, the state’s share further dipped to a dismal 4 per cent.”

“The vitality in rural economy had led to substantial growth in the unorganized small scale manufacturing in the state. Thus, the unorganized sector absorbed a lot of workforce, to the extent that number of workers employed in it in the state were, and are still, a lot higher than those employed in the organized sector. West Bengal, in fact, accounts for almost one-fifth of the unorganized sector workforce of India. This is the reason why despite the Left plank’s neglect of heavy industries for almost three decades, it continued to retain electorate support.”

“With both the primary and the unorganized sectors contribution to SDP and employment on decline, the Left Front was left to choose between ideology and industry. Little did it know – when it opted for fast track industrialization – that it is stepping into a minefield that would cripple its political fortune. Events in Singur and Nandigram were result of a very inept and insensitive handling of the land acquisition issue by the government. Even the strongest supporters of the Leftists were shocked by the police firing on women and children in Nandigram.”

“It is ironical that today in West Bengal the Left is considered pro-capital while TMC pro-poor. In line with this new perception, TMC has gained support from many leftist intellectuals, civil society groups, and even the Maoists. Disillusioned with the Left government’s support to the Centre in fighting red terror, Maoists sided with TMC calling it a progressive option in their fight against feudalism.”

“At the moment, the Left Front is in deep trouble facing popular anger and charges of rampant corruption and poor governance; as well as possibility of split in the Left plank with couple of smaller parties moving towards an alliance with TMC.”