People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 21, 2006
The Election Victories Of The Left
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee being sworn-in as the chief minister of the seventh Left Front government of West Bengal in Kolkata
historic victory of the Left Front in West Bengal for the seventh successive
time and that too with a three-fourth majority and the decisive victory of the
Left Democratic Front in Kerala with a two-third majority have brought the role
of the CPI(M) and the Left into sharp focus. The results of the assembly
elections in West Bengal and Kerala have been widely commented upon.
do these assembly elections results mean and what do they portend for national
the formation of the Left-led state governments in these two states will focus
attention squarely on the policies which the CPI(M) and the Left advocate. Both
Kerala and West Bengal under Left rule have been pioneers in land reforms and
have set an example of how to implement land reforms within the limitations of
the existing Constitutional set up. Both the states have an excellent record in
decentralisation and functioning of the three-tier panchayat system. Under Left
rule they have nurtured politics which strengthens secular values and rejects
giving space to communal politics. West Bengal for the last nearly three
decades, and Kerala off and on, have through its Left-led governments shown that
it is possible to struggle for and implement certain alternative policies in the
economic and social spheres which are pro-people in a situation dominated by
experiencing the policies of liberalisation undertaken by successive central
governments and most of the state governments, the people of India will look
forward eagerly to how the West Bengal and Kerala governments undertake economic
policies which are people-oriented, keeping in mind their livelihood and basic
needs. The Left Front of West Bengal in its election manifesto has pointed out
the difficulties of running a state government when policies being pursued by
the central government are “antithetical to the working people of India”.
They have also pointed out that the “so-called policy of liberalisation
pursued by the union government has decreased the opportunity of State
intervention in the amelioration of the problems that the people face”. It is
within the constraints of working under an overall neo-liberal dispensation that
the Left Front government after substantial progress in agricultural production
turned its attention to industrial and infrastructure development. For this it
has actively solicited private investment. Unlike other governments, it has
protected the rights of the working class. At the same time the Left Front
government has been conscious of the need to garner resources to improve
education, the health system and the social sector.
seventh Left Front government is committed to consolidate the success in land
reforms and agriculture, keep up the momentum in developing industry, build
rural and urban infrastructure, increasing employment opportunities and widen
and raise the quality of education and health systems. The success of alternate
approaches in West Bengal will strengthen the ongoing struggle against the
neo-liberal reforms being pushed through in the last one and half decades.
Kerala, in a different situation, the state government has the difficult task of
tackling the agrarian crisis. Kerala’s agrarian economy which is dominated by
cash crops finds itself vulnerable to the vagaries in prices of agricultural
commodities which are dictated by factors beyond the control of the state
government. The LDF manifesto has promised a big increase in public investment
in agriculture in the next five-year plan. It has pledged to ameliorate the
plight of the workers in the traditional industries and expand the IT and
biotechnology sectors. After the CPI(M) sponsored a comprehensive discussion on
Kerala’s path of development, the LDF manifesto contains a blueprint for
development suited to the specific conditions of Kerala society with its unique
topography and human resources.
implementing alternative policies in West Bengal and Kerala, the reality of
central dominance in centre-state relations and its growing intervention to
impose neo-liberal conditions have to be kept in mind. The curtailment of
central grants, subsidies and loan benefits have increased the difficulties for
the states. Conditionalities have been placed on the states through the Finance
Commission and other instruments to make it impossible for any state government
to adopt alternative policies. In the coming days more attention has to be paid
to these aspects of an unequal centre-state relationship under liberalisation,
if the state governments are to fulfill the commitments they have made to the
second aspect of the election verdict is its impact on national politics. The
CPI(M) and the Left parties utilised the elections in West Bengal, Kerala and
the other states to put forth the Left platform and policies.
outright rejection of the Congress-UDF misrule in Kerala is also an outcome of
the policies favoured by the Congress at the national level and when it runs
state governments. The callousness to the agrarian crisis and farmers’
suicides, the crass commercialisation of higher education and the privatisation
of basic services have cost the Congress heavily.
UPA government will do well to heed the people’s verdict. Only a few months
ago, the cabinet tried to cut food subsidy. It refuses to universalise the
public distribution system and continues to devise measures to curtail the PDS.
The growing dependence on import of wheat is a signal of the bankruptcy of its
food policy. The Congress is part of the Democratic Progressive Alliance in
Tamilnadu headed by the DMK. It would have seen how the people of Tamilnadu
enthusiastically welcomed the promise of supply of rice at Rs 2 a kg through the
PDS, a promise which has been fulfilled on the day chief minister Karunanidhi
was sworn into office.
failure to adequately provide for a public distribution system, increase
expenditure on education, health and social sector goes contrary to the spirit
of the Common Minimum Programme.
V S Achutanandan being sworn-in as the chief minister of the LDF government of Kerala
victory of the Left in West Bengal and Kerala, the endorsement given to the DMK
election manifesto and the loss of a majority in Assam for the Congress should
make the UPA government and the Congress leadership introspect and draw lessons.
people are not enamoured of the Manmohan Singh government’s policies designed
to cater to international finance capital and pursue reforms which only enrich
those who are already affluent. The failure to raise resources by taxing the
rich and pleading helplessness when the burdens on the common people increase,
is alienating the people.
the election campaign, the people articulated their concerns about livelihood,
employment, need for education, health and basic services. The Left platform
found a response as they addressed these concerns.
Bengal and Kerala have also shown the way on how the BJP and the communal forces
can be isolated. The BJP has no representation in the legislatures in both
states. Further, in Kerala, the support base of the BJP disintegrated while the
citadels of the Muslim League in Malappuram district were breached with the LDF
winning 5 out of the 12 seats in the district.
CPI(M) has been consistently advocating an independent foreign policy and has
been the most consistent opponent of the pro-America policies being pursued by
the erstwhile BJP-led government and now increasingly by the Manmohan Singh
government. The Indo-US strategic alliance will undermine India’s foreign
policy and strategic autonomy. The UPA government unmindful of its pledge to
pursue an independent foreign policy has rushed headlong into a strategic
alliance for which the Americans will extract a heavy price. On the plea of
getting through the nuclear cooperation deal, already the UPA government is step
by step succumbing to American pressures on a whole range of issues beginning
with its stand on Iran, the purchase of arms running into billions of dollars
and allying with US strategic interest in Asia.
CPI(M) had vigorously campaigned against this orientation in the assembly
elections. It was pointed out that not only in foreign policy, but US influence
in policy making in the domestic sphere is also having an adverse impact on the
livelihood of the working people. The opening up of the FDI in retail trade
under US pressure was widely cited as one such example which would affect the
livelihood of millions of shopkeepers and small traders.
verdict in favour of the Left should strengthen the resolve of all democratic
and patriotic circles in India to resolutely oppose the UPA government’s
pro-American policies. The Left will be in the forefront of such struggle to
roll back these policies.
CPI(M) and the Left parties will discuss in the coming days how to take forward
the Left platform at the national level. After making an overall assessment of
the political situation, the Party and the Left will have to chalk out a course
of action whereby they can more effectively intervene in the national situation.
Priority has to be given to ensure that the UPA government does not pursue
economic policies which do not serve the interests of the common people and
widens inequalities. The growing influence of the United States and
international finance capital on our domestic policies has to be countered. A
significant struggle lies ahead to reverse the pro-US orientation of the UPA
government and to strengthen the independence and autonomy of India’s foreign
policy and strategic decision-making.