By Sagarneel Sinha
The Left Front led by CPM, which ruled the state for 34 continuous years, is presently trying to revive itself after being caught between TMC and BJP. After the disastrous performance in the recent Lok Sabha polls, where the Left failed to win any seat for the first time, its political options for survival are limited. Its vote share has declined sharply to settle only at 7%, an all time historic low vote percentage, with most of the Left voters migrating towards the BJP — which surprised political pundits by fetching 41% votes and garnering 18 seats. However, despite receiving such tragic setbacks, the Left parties are determined to win back their lost voters by organising protest marches in the state.
One such street protest is the recently held Nabanna march by the student and youth wings of the Left parties demanding jobs and industry in Singur, attended by thousands, as the Left is desperately trying to give signals to the people of West Bengal that it hasn’t died — but is alive to be the voice of their woes. The Left leaders think that this is the only way to counter both the TMC and BJP — and also to revive the Left, which is completely beleaguered in the state.
No doubt, remaining in the street by voicing for people’s demands is the best way to connect with the people. So, Left is on the right track. But the question is will these bring back the lost votes in its kitty? May or may not.
First of all, it is not the first time that Left, after losing power in 2011, has organised such protests in the state. They had instead arranged protest marches against the Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress government, at times, in the last 8 years — even held large rallies in the state. But the problem is they fail to retain the momentum. This is due to lack of a leader, a strong organisation and of course retaining old policies — which don’t attract the youth.
It is the lack of an accepted face that has hit the Left Front the most. After losing power in 2011, the former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who is still respected by many in the state, went to political retirement. Obviously, the reason was his frailing health — and recently he was in the news when he was admitted to hospital, although released later. The CPM leadership since then hasn’t found any leader to project as its face. Although it tried to make Suryakanta Mishra, who was the leader of the opposition from 2011-16, but it didn’t work in the past — nor is working. Mishra himself failed to win from his Narayangarh assembly seat despite having an alliance with the Congress party in the 2016 assembly polls.
Irony is both the CPM and the Left are instead busy with propagating policies — as they believe that policies matter more than the leader. What they forget is that good policies are only implemented properly when there is a leader to lead the party through all odds. That’s the main reason, despite being in opposition, Left has failed to cash the prevailing anti-incumbency sentiment against Trinamool government. Leader is an important factor for the voters when they decide to vote but the Left still refuses to acknowledge.
The lack of a strong organisation has also increased the worries for the Left. CPM used to have a strong organisation which helped it see victories in the elections for more than three decades. However, the once muscular organisation has reduced to a very weak one, thanks to the failure of the Left leaders to identify the main reasons. Apart from an accepted leadership, the Left has failed to connect with the young generation — as most of the present leaders belong to the old era. Although, CPM and other left parties never forget to routinely talk about propagating youth faces inside the party leadership from junior to the state level, the reality is all these remain as ideas in the party resolutions, which are carefully stored in the racks of the party headquarters. That’s why the Left parties in the ground don’t have the strength to fight against Trinamool as the energised youth are not so interested in Left politics.
Another prominent reason is that the slogans of the Left didn’t attract today’s young generation. Although, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee tried to change the image of CPM from an anti-capitalist to a pro-industrial modernist Left party, however his hurriedness to set up factory in Singur only backfired which was capitalised by Mamata Banerjee to develop her political career from the anti-industrialist Singur protests. Also, Buddhadev himself was cornered by the anti-reformists within the party and the Front. Nevertheless, today it is crystal clear that had there been a factory in Singur, which was swallowed by the political thirst of Mamata Banerjee, the economical situation of West Bengal would have drastically changed.
CPM, which presently has joined the lines with that of Mamata by strongly protesting against NRC, should know that the NRC factor would only benefit the TMC and BJP — as it would strongly polarise the voters based on ethnic and religious lines. In that case, anti-NRC voters would tilt towards TMC, as it is the current ruling party, and the pro-NRC voters will go to BJP’s kitty — with Left gaining nothing. Also, it is true that there have been time to time illegal infiltrations from Bangladesh into the state due to poor fencing and pouring borders in some areas and it can’t be denied that the locals living across the border areas are not concerned due to these illegal infiltrations. Obviously, NRC process is not free from errors — as shown by Assam. Instead it will be better for the Left not to oppose the NRC but look to ensure its better implementation — if NRC is executed in the state. Strongly opposing NRC, will only help the BJP as it will push the anti-Mamata voters more towards the saffron party. Apart from this, CPM state leadership’s desperation to ally with the Congress, despite the fact that it is not a guaranteed partner in terms of transferring its votes, will only add more worries for the Left in the near future.
Lastly, the protest marches demanding jobs, proper educational structure and security of farmers may keep the Left parties alive in the state but without a strong leadership with an accepted and visionary leader with modernistic ideas like Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the Left Front, particularly CPM, even in alliance with the Congress, will not be able to gain anything significant when there is a stiff competition between Mamata Banerjee’s TMC and Narendra Modi-Amit Shah led BJP. (IPA Service)