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Can The Left Regain Lost Ground In Bengal In The Upcoming Assembly Elections?

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The election for Bengal Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) is due in June 2021. Another very important state election, in India, after the 2019 Parliament election (Lok Sabha). There had been many elections in between, like Bihar and other states, but it has its own importance. If for nothing else, to gauge the mood of Bengal intellectuals, the working class, Ongoing Farmers Protests. After the fall of the Left regime, a decade back, its repercussion is still felt on the national level.

Bengal has a very rich intellectual base and a rich progressive and revolutionary historical past, even before the independence, with international famed writers (Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, etc.), freedom fighters (Hundreds of them, who sacrificed for the cause), revolts starting from Naxalbari, which formed a ‘brand’ of Communist movement in India, in name of Naxalism, scientists, cine actors, and ideologues, etc. that have influenced ideologically and even shook the country, from time to time.

Representational Image (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

Bengal is one of the last bastions against the communal tunes of the BJP

The people of Bengal (United, which included East Pakistan and now Bangladesh) have led India against imperialist power as well as against feudalism and other forms of injustice and discrimination. This time the game is different and it is to be seen, whether this bastion falls to fascism or not, in the name of religion, national chauvinism, fake and poisonous personality cult. If Bengal stands against the sweeping communal forces (behind which is the economic crisis and outright plunder by the top capitalists), what will be the form?

What Does The Data Say?

This will help us form a picture of the forthcoming election, though it has to be remembered that these data are neither in a series (progressive or geometrical) nor could forecast the new Bengal Assembly, though we will be having many (some unsubstantiated and fake ones to propagate in favor of the powerful and moneyed political parties) pre-poll surveys. These data are very influential on TV hosted ‘debates’ in primetime, which, incidentally, is no better than a fish market and where, never, any fruitful outcome comes. Have a look:

BJP LS Election 2014 in Bengal polled           17.02%

Vidhan Sabha (VS) Election   2016                 10.16%

BJP LS 2019                                                        40.7%            TMC 43%

This jump of vote percentage by BJP from 2014 to 2019 in Parliament Election is impressive, but another observation is that the Parliamentary Elections are not in sync with the State Assembly Election, barring few exceptions. Let us see, with the exception first, followed by others in recent times for BJP/NDA.

Tripura:         LS 2014       5.7%           VS 43% (Exception case)

Bihar:             LS 2019       53.25%      VS (2020) 37%

Jharkhand     LS 2019       55%             VS (2019) 33%

Haryana         LS 2019      56%              VS (2019) 38%


So not to go much into the past data, we only see here that these data analysis is more of an entertainment, rather see them as a trend for the people’s mood, which incidentally shifts like sea waves, albeit with uncertain and irregular waves. The mood swing is related to the mass commotion, some idea gripping them on some issue (Remember Nirbhaya Rape Episode and Balakot incident?). They are transient, local, occasionally national, and even irrational.

The rise of the TMC and Mamata Banerjee corresponds to the fall of the left front in Bengal.

The Rise Of The TMC And The Fall Of The Left Front

Left Front in Bengal consists of CPI, CPI(M), AIFB, RSP, RCPI, Bolshevik Party of India, Marxist Forward Block, and Workers Party of India. This front was formed in 1977, few joined later and even quit. Since its formation, it ruled Bengal till 2011. In 1977 the Front got 46% of the polled votes and came to power. In 1982 it rose to 53% of the votes.

In the 2014 Parliament Election the Left was reduced to 29.9% and in the 2016 Assembly Election it was reduced to 26%, and in the 2019 Parliament Election, the figure stood at 8%! The fall in Left’s popularity has been consistent. (data is taken from the EC website)

The reason for this decimation of Left, led by the CPI(M), was the mass exodus of its cadres as well as lower and middle-level leaders. The voters and its sympathizers opted for BJP in hope of better days, who were lured by BJP’s rhetoric and jingoism. They also hoped to defeat authoritarian Mamata Banerjee and her party ‘goons’ and their atrocities and come back to ‘good’ old days! BJP was seen as a savior against TMC violence!

One of the reasons and important one of the downfall of the Left was its inability to educate the workers and the oppressed people, and its own deviation from class struggle, which meant groundwork among the masses, injecting ideology in economic demands and struggle. The gap between the top leaders and the members of the Left Front individual parties increased not only ideologically, organizationally but even in social status. The gap between the party and the masses was unbridgeable. This resembles that of any Right-Wing political parties, based on the concept of the bourgeois state (A mini ‘state’ structure in the party, call it bureaucracy or “Statism”.).

A Mahagatbandhan Against The BJP

There was news on electronic media on 13 Jan 2021. TMC asked the Left and Congress to help it in the fight against BJP and its communal policies. This can be seen as fear in TMC leaders, though the TMC so far has not suffered any appreciable loss in its vote shares, despite the increase in that of BJP. But the way BJP is leading the election campaign, the apprehension is natural. It may lead to selected riots, even though not on a mass scale, use of ED, CBI, IT Dept to intimidate the candidates and force them to quit TMC.

The impartiality of EC was further eroded in Bihar Assembly Election, where the declared winning candidates were declared as lost later. The claims could not be substantiated but the behavior of EC is unbecoming of its status as an independent constitutional institution.

The BJP/RSS is very good at the groundwork to ensure that they capture power.

The above facts, data, and reasoning lead to an old jargon, ‘Lesser Evil’, which is universal and props up during elections, like selection between Democrats and Republicans in the USA and between the Labor and the Tories in the UK. There is another syndrome ‘Who/Where is the Alternative?’ or more assertively TINA (There Is No Alternative). This is the outcome of Parliamentarian Politics or ‘Election to Election’ Politics, where the groundwork or work among the proletarian class is minimum or does not exist.

Incidentally, RSS/BJP are doing the groundwork (including underground violence, supported by the state) to capture the power without break, which includes mass rallies, meetings, protests, etc. (Cow vigilante groups, Anti Romeo Squads, Bajrang Dal, and many more.). This was not a practice followed by RSS, Jan Sangh (the earlier political wing of RSS), BJP, and other affiliated RSS family members earlier, but started after the 1975-77 JP movement and became very prominent after the 2012-13 Anna movement.

The Feasibility Of A Left-TMC Coalition

There cannot be any conclusion of any ongoing process, where we analyze pre-poll conditions and even later as ‘lessons learned’. However, there are few outcomes of the above research, important ones, firstly, the Left and the Revolutionary forces have erred, deviated, and even dumped their revolutionary political line and practices. They cannot be ‘advised’ on their theory and practices, as they even shy in self-criticism publicly, forget about accepting others’ evaluation.

Secondly, once these revolutionary forces have accepted the Parliamentarian path for the desired changes (they call it revolution to supersede capitalism with socialism!), winning the election becomes (and has become since long) the most important task (see for analogy, the downfall of AAP, after they started selecting their candidates on winnability factor.). Why shy away from TMC, which is not much different than Congress (its mother organization) ideologically?

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  1. Krishna Singh

    “Much Awaited Update”: Sanjay Raut Confirms Sena Joining Fight For Bengal
    Interesting. AIMIM easily makes a base among the Muslim voters, divides the anti BJP votes. In Bengal they have a large chunk, but what is Shiv Sena’s claim? Penetrate in the BJP vote banks? The BJP voters, like in Delhi are not fools to shift allegiance to a losing party, SS.
    This does not make a difference to the Left, and more so, if it reverts back to its revolutionary politics, the class struggle. However, in electoral politics, where revolutionary line is dumped, and fascist regime has usurped all the state power (in service of the bourgeois class), its fate hangs on the mercy of the bourgeois class, malpractices in election process, within EVM and out of it.
    In this game, where capital investment is very high, blackmailing its leaders is open, Left is likely to lose its battle further. The fight for existence is hardly for winning the war!

    1. AA

      Good analysis.

  2. Krishna Singh

    बनने से पहले उठने लगे हैं बंगाल के महागठबंधन पर सवाल

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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