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Is the CPM a waning party? - The Observer

Dina Nath Mishra ()
March 19, 1998

Title: Is the CPM a waning party?
Author: Dina Nath Mishra
Publication: The Observer
Date: March 19, 1998

For long, the adjective reserved for the CPM has been 'stagnant'.
It has been stagnant politically. Its performance in the
elections underlined it. It has been a stagnant force
geographically also. It could not cross the borders of Kerala,
West Bengal and tiny Tripura. Intellectual stagnation was too
apparent to be missed. Age-old hollow and meaningless jargons
coloured its resolutions and other documents. The party produced
a number of parrot-like geniuses who are good only m reproductive
intelligence. They have been quite unmindful of whether or not
their formulations are applicable to the situation obtained
locally. For over a decade, the party has been functionally
stagnant also. It is therefore not at all surprising that despite
its continuous rule in West Bengal, the overall profile of the
state can be described as a model stagnant state.

Let us see as to what propelled the top CPM leader Jyoti Basu to
say that Congress should form the government, and UF would
support it. The statement has come just at the point of time when
it was almost certain that Vajpayee was going to get the
invitation within 24 hours to form the government. BJP and its
allies were away from the magic mark of majority by seven MPs.
There were still hopeful of coming together of Congress and its
allies, plus UF and a few others. There was a ray of hope of
stopping BJP even at that stage. That was why CPM leaders were
the most eager lot for so-cared secular front's power. But, why
did a man of Jyoti Basu's stature go that far?

It may be recalled that after the results in the politburo
meeting, Harkishan Singh Surjeet was bitterly criticised by chief
Minister of Kerala E K Nayanar and others for his statements
during the campaign, declaring the possibility of Congress UF
together to form the non-BJP government. No doubt, Basu had
thrown his weight in favour of Surjeet in that meeting. But the
fact remains that their line was the voice of minority in the
politburo. Subsequently, both the top leaders had to face severe
criticism in central committee also. In order to get the
clearance for the party's support to Congress-led government,
they pushed a resolution, but failed. Despite this, both Basu and
Surjeet kept up their effort in the same direction, disregarding
their resolution of the last plenum and views of majority
expressed in the preceding politburo and central committee
meetings. It was surprising, for this is not the way CPM used to
function in any phase of its history. Why was Basu so desperate?

The fact is that CPM's 'adjective' is threatened. Because of the
split of the Congress votes, CPM was hoping to get almost all the
42 seats in West Bengal. But a deterrent result was awaiting
them. It could save its earlier tally, but not the percentage of
votes, despite scientific rigging in a number of rural seats.
Never before has the Left Front's vote percentage gone below 50
per cent during last four general elections.

This time it is just 47 per cent. But this is not an alarming
slide by itself. Then what made Basu so worried? There is a real
cause of worry. Anti-CPM crusader Mamata Banerji's party secured
27 per cent of votes and its alliance partner BJP 11 per cent.
Another 15 per cent went to Congress. The Congress paid the
price of selling the opposition space of Left Front in general
and CPM in particular.

Out of the 294 assembly segments BJP- Trinamul combine polled
more votes against, Left Front in 114 assembly segments. The
trend shows that most of the Congress votes are likely to shift
to Trinamul Congress. In all likelihood, BJP-Trinamul combine is
going to match Left Front. The slide in Left Front's votes by 2.7
per cent in rural areas and more than five per cent in cities is
alarming for CPM in West Bengal. It is no more a 'stagnant' party
in the state. It is a waning party. Left Front's overall tally
has come down to 48 in 1998 from 53 of 1996. The more humiliating
factor for CPM is the defeat of its stalwart Nirmal Chatterji at
Dumdum by BJP state President Tapan Sikdar by over 2.5 lakh
votes. Young workers and voters of CPM have gone over to BJP
there. Even otherwise, BJP is a growing party in the state. Its
alliance with emerging regional force, Trinamul Congress, is
cause of concern for, CPM

The CPM has been playing a major role in the national Politics
through United Front, and in the earlier Phase with help of
National Front chiefly because of its fortress of West Bengal.
Most of Left MPs came from this state only. Kerala's
contribution was secondary. First, because the size of the state
is less than half of West Bengal, and secondly because its share
in Kerala LS seats was seldom more than 50 per cent. Naturally,
the West Bengal unit of CPM has unparalleled status in the party.
In many ways West Bengal and CPM looked synonymous. And now that
the established monopoly is going to face a real political
challenge' they are worried. In this background, the BJP and its
allies coming to power at the Centre looked like a calamity
befalling the CPM. That explains the desperation of Jyoti Basu.
That is why CPM would do anything to topple Vajpayee governments

Further, there is the emergence of more disturbing factors in
Left Front itself. Apart from CPM and CPI, it has RSP Forward
Bloc in it. After the results, both these parties passed
resolutions that in no case would they support a Congress-led
government. It was contrary to the wishes of CPM bosses. The
divergence of views of RSP and Forward Bloc never bothered CPM
leaders. Ultimately, whenever differences occurred, the big
brother prevailed. This time also, the CPM is taking them for
granted. These smaller parties can't do anything. They could not
have gone to the Congress. But now they have a non Congress
alternative in the state. Even if one of them leaves Left Front,
it would off balance the Left Front totally.

As luck would have it, West Bengal is going to have panchayat
polls on May 28 this year. BJP and Trinamul would fight the
three-tier panchayat elections jointly. They will have joint
campaign's also. At the backdrop of the results of recently held
Lok Sabha polls, some CPM leaders wanted these panchayat
elections to be postponed. But panchayat minister chief minister
did not listen to the demand for it would have given a wrong
signal. The atmosphere in West Bengal has changed considerably
after the results. A police union of Calcutta has already
defected to Mamata's side. This may be an indicator of the mood
of the government employees of the state. Panchayat samitis get
Rs 8-9 crore and district councils get Rs 100-150 crore annually,
peanuts by Indian standard. The fact that the accounts of 341
panchayat samitis and 16 district councils have not been audited
since 1985 speaks volumes for the underlying corruption. Trinamul
Congress and BJP have already planned to concentrate on panchayat
elections. If West Bengal is eager to throw out its synonym, it
would get the opportunity.

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