If anyone has destroyed CPM, it is the CPM itself. I can personally bet that most workers of Trinamool Congress are also communists at heart because in Bengal, most hearts beat for the masses. The revolutionary fervour is a part of Bengali blood stream. It’s no wonder they tolerated a rotting communist party for so many years rather than vote for anyone else. The amazing thing is that even in these elections, out of a total population of 5.73 crores who voted in Bengal, Trinamool Congress got only five lakh votes more than the communists. Of course, rigging happened in many, many places where the communists won – from people not being allowed to leave their homes in the first place (something that can be never caught by the CRPF personnel who were posted) to threats at the voting booths, every trick in the book was rampantly used. But then, there are people who voted for CPM without coercion too. From people who actually benefitted from their regime, to their grassroots party supporters to communist lovers. Before going any further, let’s first analyse, why did the CPM lose? Well, they lost primarily because they lost the support of the Muslim voters they had pampered for years (by allowing them to migrate freely from Bangladesh). This time alienated due to Nandigram-type issues, the Muslims came out and voted against them. And the fact, as I have always mentioned, is that Muslims are brave people for sure. There is no party that is strong enough to use muscle power to rig Muslim votes when they come out united. So, alienating the Muslims was a big mistake. The second reason is that finally, the media played a positive role by default. Due to the pure nature of how nothing misses the media glare today, Nandigram got reported in mass media in an expansive way and became a huge issue, even though Buddhadeb’s predecessor Jyoti Basu had created a far bigger carnage at Marichapi in Sunderbans years back. At that time, the incident didn’t get reported properly; and he escaped media glare. Thirdly and most importantly, CPM has paid for its huge regime of ruthless dictatorial suppression and muscle power that it had exercised for at least the last 22 of the 32 years they have been in power. Many governments in India use the police to their advantage; and people somehow overlook the same. But the ruthless CPM used their own party offices to get back to people. People used to be picked up from their homes and taken to the local party offices where they would be interrogated, beaten up ruthlessly, threatened and eventually tamed. Delhi-centric media typically never reported such rampant atrocities and CPM’s muscle rule in Bengal thrived. Years of torture later, people in West Bengal, under the leadership of Mamata, finally got the chance to hit back. Today, CPM party offices are being burnt down by CPM workers themselves – undoubtedly wrong, but a natural consequence of their own past coming back to haunt them. Finally and fourthly is the firebrand leadership of ‘Didi’ – Mamata Banerjee. It takes guts to take such a CPM regime of shameless rogues head on. She has done that and hats off to her. At the same time, I fear that she might just fail to turn this huge opportunity into a grand win in the Bengal elections to be held two years from now. And my worst fear is that she might have herself to blame for it. First and foremost, I am a little surprised at her choice of ministry. The railway ministry does have a huge budget but there is very less that can be done to make a massive impact. And more so since Laloo had actually been doing a good job. Keeping in mind the Bengal elections, my suspicions are that she might have nothing much to do especially in the next two years to showcase her leadership potential. On the other hand, by taking a ministry like Panchayati Raj, she could have actually impacted the lives of the poor in villages, empowered them and displayed her leadership potential within two years. The big railway budget is just a show. However, perhaps the worst is that while DMK took three cabinet rank ministries (it’s a different matter that those posts are for his trusted dynasty members), Mamata took only one. Clearly a sign of insecurity and lack of courage to share a similar platform with any other party leader. The fact is that if she doesn’t empower her party leaders, her party will not grow. Good leadership is about making leaders of your people. She had a clear chance to take three to four cabinet rank ministries and make a huge impact on the national government; thereby spreading a great word back home as a leader whose party is making a national impact. Unfortunately, she lost the chance. My bigger worry is however something else. As she has done in the past, she shouldn’t suddenly show her adamancy and temper to walk out of the government. She has already started showing signs of attitude problems with the government. That can be suicidal. She needs to realise that it would be the central CRPF support to curb rigging during the future elections that can be the real big difference between her loss and win two years later. She must act in a planned manner now and deliver the killer blow. After all, it’s only an edge of five lakh votes that she currently has. She has to turn it into ten times more in the next two years to feel really safe. And for that, she must display strong and sharp leadership skills and not self-ignite the Prakash Karat way to doom.
- 11 June 2009 |
- Arindam on Indian Politics