Saturday, May 14, 2011

Time for left to widen its base and introspect its loss

It is a vote against loot of public resources: Land or money from exchequer Understanding the mandate of voters in recent assembly elections By Vidya Bhushan Rawat The 35 years old left front government in West Bengal finally bowed out of power in a massive reversal of fortunes which they never ever imagined. Mamata Banerjee and her alliance is ready to take up the new challenge in West Bengal. There is no need to argue against left except the fact that they had stayed in power for too long and for the good health of democracy the people must not allow any regime beyond two terms consequently. In fact, Parliament should pass a bill fixing up tenure of Prime Minister and Chief Ministers so not to allow any PM or CM beyond two terms whether consecutive or alternative like the system in United States fix terms for president. It will strengthen democracy and take us beyond the polity of individual ‘liberators’ which has become hall mark of our polity and political-social movements. That will pave the way for more democratisation of parties and leadership and further decentralise the power structure and develop new leadership. Therefore, defeat of left in West Bengal should not be considered as a jolt but as a break for the party leadership to think about their programmes and policies. None can deny the historic role of the left forces in West Bengal but there is also a grave reality that there was no efforts to bring the marginalised leadership into the party. The dark reality of West Bengal is the continuous marginalisation of Dalit-OBC-Muslim leadership in any of the political formulations. Hence if people are calling Mamata Banerjee the new liberator of West Bengal, it need to be seen whether people like Amit Mitra of CII, are going to liberate Bengal or will they create new Nandigrams and ‘manage’ media which had turn anti left in the past 10 years. It is important to know whether Mamata has any new agenda for the vast number of these marginalised sections of society which remain marginalised politically and in governance structure in West Bengal. Yesterday, Bengal was remarkably calm. In Bardwan, where I boarded a local train to reach Chandanagore, none was initiating a discussion, there was a pin drop silent in the trains and roads and streets were deserted. Only the regular vendors were selling their products. At one place, a coolie had virtually tears in his eyes telling ‘everything is lost’, Buddha Babu gone, most of his colleagues defeated’. His eyes spoke everything. I came here to understand the moods of people but I suppose so much has happened that it will take time for people to realise that things are changed. There were not much discussions on the streets. People were not much expressive. May be the defeat of Buddha Dev and his team shocked the people. Did he deserve this humiliation of losing in his own constituency? Mamata said the people of West Bengal are liberated. Well didi, we also want liberation from you, from the Railway ministry which you virtually killed with your over time involvement in West Bengal. Now, that you have to take charge of Writer’s Building in Kolkata, please give a break to Prime Minister to find a better Railway Minister so that we all can travel safe and better. In the evening, there was as mall procession of people with Vande Mataram in the air. Mamata’s flag hoist every where. Women and men played holi and colour each other yet the mood still was somewhat sombre. In the night when I walked on the side of Hooghly, not much was visible except the fact the some people went to see an exhibition on Tagore and his life. My friend Bhaskar suggested that political discussion seems to be reducing in West Bengal and youths are completely dejected with the overdose of politicisation process in the state. Did the CPM manipulate the caste equations in the state? The left had always have a position in favour class and not caste but the realities of Bengal showed that also came from powerful Bhadralok who seems to have drifted from the party towards Mamata for green pastures. The 26% Muslims of the state remained completely isolated and marginalised despite tall claims of ‘secular’ values. Muslims want participation in power structure and their job share in the government. Is not it a shame that such a huge number of Muslims have less share in governance structure in West Bengal than in Gujarat who we regularly vilify. Congress Party, the allied partner of Trinamul is happy today as it returned to power in Kerala and retained in Assam. The news analysts may be writing obituary of the left in West Bengal and glorifying Mamata Banerjee and her team but in democracy one has to win. Left lost after 35 years hence no need to feel sorry for them. None should get such a long ride if we want to strengthen democracy. We need left forces in the country as long as we have regimes of repression. Left is always great when in the opposition and one hope they will raise the issue of loot of land in the country and contribute in a much better way. The poll results have thrown some pertinent questions at the moment. Congress lead UPA at the centre continues to brazenly follow the neoliberal agenda and has corrupted the entire structure. It is time for them to do a rethink. In the din of celebrations, it must think that there lies the message of voters about policies and programme. One, that people want better living for them, better life and secure future for them. They want roads, infrastructure, schools, hospitals and not the political rhetoric against these. West Bengal lacked that shockingly and credit goes to some of the rhetorical statement that we in the left movement are habitual of making about development and welfare. Secondly, Nandigram and Singur sealed the fate of the left. The same CPM and its allies lost their credit among their own supporters and constituents as it smack of hypocrisy. None can support Mamata’s politicisation in Singur as most of the people wanted a better compensation and security of their jobs, and yet the government mishandled the situation and now faced the music. The struggle against land acquisition is a nation wide phenomenon apart from the question of tribal rights over forest and water resources. Those who want to celebrate at the ouster of left forces must not drift away from the reality of the current trends. The left forces in West Bengal got 42% of the total votes against 48% of Mamata Banerjee led alliance. Just 6% of shift in votes has changed the fortunes of the left in West Bengal reflect a serious concern of all of us that we need to discuss on the issue of electoral reform. How can a mere 6% difference create loss of 162 seats? So, even after 35 years of left rule, if Bengal electorate has still reposed faith in the left then we should appreciate their work and actions. Ofcourse, as I said earlier, time for introspection for the left themselves and hopefully this will give them more time to strengthen their social base and widen their network. The result of Kerala have shown the similar trends that even if UDF seems to have got the power, the fact is that it is not a resounding no to the policies of left, which brings us to other points as why are neo liberals celebrating this even when left is not decimated despite their tall claims. And the answer is clear that industries are looking Mamata to work for the industries in West Bengal which is fair enough but how she manages it would be seen in future. The rout of DMK in Tamilnadu is a great lesson for all the political leaders who feel that people are not going to entertain corruption. While Jayalalitha is no saint and definitely Karunanidhi had a better record as chief minister, the involvement of family in wide scale corruption is a matter of great concern and people have rejected them all. One thing that goes greatly in favour of the left parties is that despite such a long spell of serving in power in West Bengal and Kerala, their leaders were relatively cleaner and uncorrupted which is unique and must be acknowledged. The trend of people throwing their own community leaders who tend to be corrupt started from Haryana where Devi Lal felt that corruption was never an issue. It reached Bihar where Lalu’s brother in laws had field day and anointing Rabari Devi as chief minister of State was the biggest damage that he played though he might claim it was a ‘backward’ woman but the question is there are hundreds of backward community women, much better than Rabari Devi who could have become Chief minister if Lalu was so interested. Mulayam Singh Yadav has the same fate. Actually, that makes Mayawati must stronger and better than any of her opponent despite all allegation of corruption that she has not allowed her family members dominate the political space of BSP. Hence, the Tamilnadu and Puducherry results shows that the people will revolt against their leaders and that democracy will mature and none can take their own community for granted even if our intellectuals and political analysts try to glorify any misdeeds. The trends from these polls are clear that it is a vote against corruption and a vote for change, a vote for better life and not mere rhetoric. It is not that all those who have been elected are ‘revolutionaries’ or ‘change makers’. That is the biggest drawback of our democratic set up that elections are won on the negative votes. Jayalalitha came back to power because of excess of the Karunanidhi government in Tamilnadu. None will want a state to become the family domain of a party or an individual. The West Bengal’s mandate was for change as it is over 35 years left front rule and there was stagnation but that does not really mean power in the hands of marginalised. May be new forces of social justice have to emerge from West Bengal. Muslims continue to remain marginalised except promises by the political parties. They can not survive on the promises of the parties. The leadership has to emerge. West Bengal will need a social revolution of ‘vote hamara raj tumhara, nahi chalega’.. my vote your govt will not work. The OBCs, Dalits, Muslims can make a strong combine but alas they did not have a credible face and more over the first past the post system is certainly beneficial to powerful castes in India and does not favour the marginalised. India will have to switch to Proportionate Electorate System, if we want representative governments in true sense which could reflect the diversity of people in our governance structure. The manipulations and calculations of political parties will not work and they will have to function according to aspirations of the people and minorities whether linguistic or caste or religious will have more safety than they have today. The dismal percentage of Muslims in political structure will create unhealthy environment in all the states and further alienate them. It is time a serious thought is given to make their presence felt in the power structure. What makes it more important from the fact that despite tribal opposition and revolt Bastar goes to the same party and non tribal. How can you resolve a conflict where the Member of Parliament has no time to visit the people and speak on their issues? When the government can hold talks with ULFA and NSCN, what is wrong with speaking with those claiming to work for tribal or protecting them? That would give more time to government to reach in these areas and discuss autonomy of tribal regions It is time for Congress to think beyond Manmohan-Montek-Chidambaram agenda of development. The fire of Nandigram and Singur has now reached Noida where Congress General Secretary went and sat on a Dharana ignoring the vital fact that Congress governments in Andhra Pradesh and Maharastra had the worst record related to this where chief ministers became over enthusiastic in land grab. Late Y.S.Rajshekar Reddy lead it, acquired tribal land and the polarised the opinion in media and political circle by playing different caste, and regional cards. The ideologues in the Congress want government to dole out ‘entitlement’ based things to people and acquire their land clandestinely without any protest. By targeting the civil society and all those who are opposing these policies, the political parties are trying to shut the dissent. Mr Chidambaram would do well to think over his agenda of ‘tribal’ empowerment. There will never be any peace in India if we continue to elect our government based on minority votes and rejoice at the ‘dance’ of democracy. If in the past 20 years our parliament did not have time to discuss the land acquisition bill and despite presence of 350 odd Dalit, OBC and tribal Member of Parliament and our marginalised continue to be sold, then it is time, we must give a rethink to our current system. In the absence of these debates, everything that governments do is a justification of act in the form of violence against people. Every protest for protection of their land water and resources is being criminalised by indiscriminate use of police force, terming it as administrative problem. It is time to think over these issues seriously. At the end of the day, these election results have shown that people will fight against corruption which actually is loot of people’s resources whether it is in the form of Nandigram, Singur or monitory loss to the exchequer in the 3G spectrum. Not much should be expected from the political class who will always manipulate things and wait that people forget it. One is sure, in the coming days, things are becoming more difficult and there is a serious need to switch over to Proportionate Electorate System, at least a debate is needed so that we have genuine representation and wider protections of the rights of the tribals, Dalits and minorities and the seats one gains should be proportional to the vote polled by the party. Let the left initiate the debate on electoral system by involving more political parties and involve itself more on strengthening social political movements which is important against the illegal grab of our resources and growing corruption in our political life. Let Didi and Amma take charge of their state in hope that they would do justice to what they promised to their people.

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