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Descent into anarchy

Descent into anarchy

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: June 17, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/183391/Descent-into-anarchy.html

Incompetent LF watches Bengal burn

Disturbing and disquieting as it is, the post-election violence in West Bengal is not going to go away in a hurry. East Midnapore district, formerly a CPI(M) stronghold, has seen the worst of the tumult. This is the area of Nandigram, scene of a vicious land acquisition battle, and of Khejuri, where Left and Trinamool Congress workers have a decade-long history of clashes. The CPI(M) is the establishment in the district and the State but, led by supporters of newly-appointed Union Minister Sisir Adhikari, the Trinamool camp is on steroids. So-called raids on CPI(M)-controlled offices in Khejuri have been revealing. Villagers have discovered caches of arms as well as National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme job cards, issued in the name of ordinary citizens but which the supposed beneficiaries themselves have never seen. Local CPI(M) officials have been appropriating the job dole in what amounts to a criminal act. Not surprisingly, West Bengal has an extremely poor record in terms of NREGS implementation. The level of the fraud that the State administration and CPI(M) fixers have committed on their own people - the poorest of their people, it must be said - is probably so massive, it will need a successor Government to uncover it. Right now, sensing that change is coming, the restive Trinamool cadre and a whole host of anti-Left political forces are resorting to a degree of direct action. The Left is getting a taste of its own medicine, of the agitprop methods that used to be its copyright. Police stations are surrounded and panchayat offices are locations of 'popular resistance'. All the while, a Marxist Government complains of disorder. Hidden in such ironies is West Bengal's essential tragedy. Over the past 25-30 years, the State has slipped into an alternative reality. At times, this resembles plain anarchy. Now, state-sponsored anarchy is in danger of giving way to all-purpose anarchy.

Despite its brave words in New Delhi and its protestations of innocence, the fact is the CPI(M) is very confused. It has no real quarrel with Trinamool Congress's modes of protest, having used them itself. It also realises it is losing popular support by the day. Many of those attacking Left cadre in East Midnapore, for instance, used to be fellow travellers till recently. The results of the Lok Sabha election have severely demoralised CPI(M) workers and given their opponents hope of imminent regime change. Some of the Trinamool Congress-led foot soldiers see violence as legitimate dissent, and an expression of their new-found 'freedom'. On the other hand, the ruling party needs to quickly win back influence and reinstate fear in its lost territories. After all there are less than two years to go for the Assembly election of 2011. What this means is that a continual cycle of provocation, action and reaction can be safely predicted.

In the end, the bulk of the responsibility must lie with the CPI(M) and the Government it heads. Law and order is the State Government's charge. If it cannot deliver on this basic duty it means it is collaborating in at least some of the lawlessness or is plain incompetent. There is also a third explanation - that the Government has lost popular legitimacy. If the Lok Sabha verdict be translated into Assembly segment leads, the ruling coalition is behind in about 200 of 294 seats. Simply put, the Left Front has lost its nerve.

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