By Amrita Paul:
“Let (the) Election Commission do whatever it likes, but we are going to win this time also.” -Jyoti Basu.
Such was the conviction of the Left front government after heading the state of West Bengal for a period of 30 years. Formed during the Indo-china war of 1962, the Left Front Government was a culmination of decades of struggles made by students, teachers, refugees, peasants and workers. Born at the time when Congress was hostile towards any political competitions, the new wave of CPI(M) cadets fought for the rights of the general masses without any fear for confrontations of arrest or death. Although it won only 19 seats in the Lok Sabha elections CPI(M) emerged as a winner in the West Bengal state elections. The party stood at crossroads when the naxalbari movement started by the party radicals was violently oppressed by the Government. On gaining power in 1969, Ajoy Mukherjee returned as the minister of state but he resigned after the state was put under the president’s rule. The party again rose to power in 1977, punishing the Congress for its harsh authoritarian treatments and anti democratic actions during the time of emergency. Jyoti Basu became the Chief Minister and held the position till his retirement in the 2000. During these years he had clearly proven that-
“It is man and man alone, who creates history. Despite many crest and thrust people will finally emerge victorious and go in freedom in a classless society free from exploitation of any form.”
With the major responsibility of delivering services to the people, the new government embarked on its journey to provide relief and implement alternate policies in places where the state government had some say. It was initially difficult to make a difference in the existing constitutional set up because the financial sources were in the hands of the centre but once they had started there was no looking back, for the people or for the left front government. They started carrying out extensive land reforms and established Panchayati raj throughout the state. These reforms broke the barriers of landlordism and empowered the peasants and agricultural workers to a great extent. Initiatives were also taken to improve the workplace conditions of factory workers, teachers, and government employees. The youth were motivated and the people started identifying with the government as a fighter for their cause and a custodian of their rights. In spite of being met with a cold shoulder by the Congress run central government industrialization flourished in West Bengal on coping with stagnation caused due to lack of support from the centre. The focus of the state is to concentrate on employment generation and not just on the big companies alone. This further gained impetus after the sixth consecutive victory of the left front when comrade Buddhadeb Bhattacharyya was elected as the chief minister. From education to health services, public toilets to the provision of safe drinking water the state government worked hand in hand with the local bodies for the implementation of such programmes. The West Bengal Minority Development Finance Corporation (WBMFDC) was established in 1996 to provide employment and scholarships for meritorious students among Muslims and today it clearly emerges as one of the best in the country. There is no doubt that the government has to be clearly more concerned about people’s welfare, especially about socio-economic disadvantaged groups but their efforts till date have not got unappreciated or unnoticed.
After creating history for the last three decades it seems that the Left Front has lost its track. The greed and corruption of the party leaders, their indifference to the people’s sufferings and nepotism has led the party to the verge of extinction. At this point of time no effort to amend its previous mistakes would be enough to bring them out of the critical situation. People have died on election days , the hunger rate in West Bengal still remains the highest among all the states. Fourteen out of eighteen districts continue to remain among the poorest districts of the nation as blunder and decadence take a better hold of the party. Deviation from the ideologies that formed the basis of the party, the Left Front rule lost in the panchayat election last to last year only to be meted out with a bigger blow where Trinamool Congress won more than half the seats in the Lok sabha elections. This is clearly the party’s worst performance ever. On analysing the issue further we can ascertain that this is but a role reversal between two major parties. The left front had come to power with the support of the peasant and working classes. Now they are being haunted by similar situations except for the fact that the tables have turned. As far as this year’s elections are concerned Mamata has already won the people over with her “Ma-Mati-Manush” catchphrase. If CPM comes back to power (at all!) they need to try and amend situations like poverty, roads, health, education instead of justÂ en-cashingÂ on the people’s sentiments to build up a state which is anything but what our forefathers had dreamt of. Quoting Abraham Lincoln –“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew”