Friday, May 8, 2009

Has the Left Fort been shaken in West Bengal?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

West Bengal was one state in India which was always painted red. Many people would have learnt to live with the idea that Left Front couple not be defeated in the Bengali heartland. But for the first time since the polls post Indira Gandhi's death in 1984 Left seems to be on shaky ground in its own bastion. Analyst believe the Trinamool Congress and Congress alliance might cause a dent in the Left stronghold.

The politics in West Bengal has mostly been isolated from the rest of the country. The Babri Masjid demolition or the politics or 'Mandal and Kamandal' hardly made any impact of the poll results here. West Bengal seemed to have been insulated from liberalization, saffron wave of the 90s, the castist politics or recent India Shining campaign. It was all about a political ideology preached by the Left which worked in what was once India's most prosperous state.

The question in West Bengal was never who but it was by how much? People knew who was on road to Delhi, the unknown factor was number of votes. Most political parties over the years actually fought for the second place in West Bengal. But for the first time political pundits seem to be interested in the outcome of the polls here as it is unpredictable. For the first time a non-Left coalition seems to be sniffing victory in a substantial number of seats.

In the last assembly election out of the 294 seats the Left Front won 227 while the Congress and TMC managed 51 seats. In the last Lok Sabha elections LF bagged 35 out of the 42 seats. But a lot of water has flown down the Hoogly since then and a lot has changed. The urban rural divide became more evident during the Tata Nano crisis. The Left Front which had championed the cause of the poor farmers suddenly turned Land Grabbers from Land Reformers.

The high percentage of voter turn out and violence may signal a change wave going on around in West Bengal. The rural voters who were once the die hard supporters of the Left Front suddenly seems to have lost trust in the party which had done a lot for them in the grassroot level. The negligible suicide rate among farmers in West Bengal is a result of such reforms in the state. But the farmers now see the LF turning a back on them after Singur and Nandigram.

It will be amateurish for anybody to write off the Left Front in West Bengal but the Left leaders surely are having sleepless nights this time around. The May 16 results will show if truly the 'Didi Factor' worked in the Red State. For the Left Front it remains to be seen if Singur and Nandigram becomes their Waterloo.


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