People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 31

August 02, 200

TRIPURA

 

Left Front Scores Resounding Victory in Panchayat Elections

 

 

                                                                               Rahul Sinha

 

KEEPING in tune with the expectations, the Left Front in Tripura has achieved a resounding victory in the recently concluded elections for the three tier panchayats in the state. Elections were held on July 20. Out of the 511 gram panchayats, the Left Front got majority in 416, it won 3982 seats out of the total 5295 gram panchayat seats. Congress won in 81 gram panchayats and in14 gram panchayats, the Left Front and Congress got equal number of seats. The Left Front is slated to form the boards in 81.4 per cent of the gram panchayats. In the block level panchayat samitis also the Left Front clinched all the 23 of the boards and won 265 out of a total 299 seats with a success rate of 88.62 per cent. In the four zilla parishads too, the Left Front repeated its success winning all of them and emerged victorious in 74 of the 82 zilla parishad seats ie in 90.24 per cent seats. In the by-elections held for the 47 vacant seats of the ADC village committees, the Left Front won 38 seats. It also won in the by elections held for one vacant seat of Agartala municipal council and three more vacant seats of two nagar panchayats(urban local bodies).

 

POLITICAL

SITUATION

                   

For a proper evaluation of this electoral victory of the Left, one has to consider the national and state specific political scenario in which the elections were held. Compared to the 2004 panchayat elections, the situation was totally different. The second term of the UPA government at the center and that too without any dependence on the Left parties was no doubt a boost for the Congress in Tripura also. The electoral set back of the Left parties in West Bengal and Kerala had added to their elation. The Congress was really upbeat and they fielded candidates in almost 98 per cent seats for the first time in the history of panchayat elections in the state. The track record of the Congress party about the panchayat raj in the state has been a constant denial of the democratic rights of the people. In the 29 years of continuous Congress rule in the state before 1978, they never cared to hold any election to the panchayats. A farce in the name of elections used to be held where people had to raise their hands to support candidates. These were more often than not virtually manipulated in favour of the moneylenders, zotdars and other rural exploiting classes who for very clear class interests were the leaders and the support base of the Congress. Panchayats were not an instrument of rural development but an ally of the police and the vested interest groups for terrorising and exploiting the poor rural masses. Panchayati Raj in Tripura was democratised only after the first Left Front government assumed office in 1978. In 1979 for the first time people got the right to vote. Voting through secret ballots gave people the chance to choose their own candidates. For the first time, rickshaw pullers, daily labourers, poor and marginalised people got the right to contest and get elected in panchayats. For the first time, the rural oppressors, exploiters and the vested interest groups were marginalised.

            

When in 1988 the Congress TUJS coalition government assumed power in the state using terror tactics and rigging all the elected panchayats, the elected bodies were dissolved by just an administrative order. During the five year term of the discredited coalition government, not a single election was held. So much so, when Comrade Ajit Ray Choudhury, an elected pradhan of the state's largest panchayat challenged the dissolution order in the court of law, he was brutally murdered by the Congress goons. In stead of elected panchayats of the people ‘development committees’ comprising the Congress leaders were thumped on the people and what these committees did were anything but development. People of the state had renamed them as plundering committees. From 1994, after the people voted back Left Front to office, regular elections to the three tier panchayats are being held in the state. In the last three elections, people have voted Left Front to power in most of the gram panchayats, all the panchayat samitis and zilla parishads. Due to the heinous track record the Congress could not even field candidates in all the seats during the last three elections.

But with the changes in the national political scenario, the PCC leaders saw an opportunity of their revival and that is the reason they fielded candidates in almost all the seats. At the same time the rural exploiting class who were marginalised and forced to give up their traditional seat of power and control in the last 16 years by the democratic movement of the people saw this as an opportune time for their revival.

                                 

    In the last 15 years, under the supervision of the state government, the panchayats are now the instruments of rural development. Mass participation of the people in developmental works have proved how even a tiny state can make substantial progress. The success of the state has been recognised by  none less than the central government and the planning commission. Tripura now has the highest per capita income among the north eastern states and is one among the five best performing states in rural development. Panchayats are now the symbol of development in the state. Strict transparency is being maintained in the developmental works.For beneficiary selection  and social audit of the funds and works of the panchayats,  gram sansads are held regularly. On top of that, the state government has introduced the concept of ‘people's committee’ consisting of people from all the political parties.

                                   

LEFT AHEAD

IN CAMPAIGN

          

In this situation, the elections were held. The Left Front remained well ahead of the Congress led opposition in the campaign seeking mandate of the people for more development and lasting peace. The Congress too left no stone unturned and the electoral prospects though far from being evenly poised were never a cake walk for the Left Front. The Congress and their allies resorted to all sorts of lies and baseless negative campaign against the Left Front. However people had not believed them. Out of frustration, they have resorted to attacks on the CPI(M) and Left Front workers, killing two CPI(M) supporters including one just on the eve the polls. The majority of the media, both print and electronic, sang in the tune of Congress to misguide the electorate. They have even tried to bribe the voters. It was reported in the press that Sanjay Bapna flew to Agartala with not less than an amount of Rs One crore just a day before the polls. During the campaign, PCC president Samir Barman had time and again resorted to vulgar attack on chief minister Manik Sarkar and issued threats that with good result of the Congress, the days of the Left Front government will be numbered. In spite of that the huge presence of people in the rallies of the left Front had given the indication of the mindset of the people. Left had already won five gram panchayats, 115 gram panchayat seats and one seat each of panchayat samiti and zilla parishad. Elections to the rest were held on July 20. Elections were held in a festive mood almost peacefully barring a few minor incidents. A record 92 per cent of the voters exercised their democratic rights braving scorching heat.

                                    

THE RESULT AND

ITS SIGNIFICANCE

 

 

 The results have clearly manifested that the Left bastion in the rural areas remained intact. Congress could not win a single seat in 179 of the 511 gram panchayats. They were wiped out completely from six of the 23 panchayat samitis and the South Tripura zilla parishads.

This huge and decisive mandate is no doubt a reflection of the mood of the electors who have voted standing in queue for hours to ensure peace and faster develpoment. At the same time this splendid victory shall surely enthuse the Left and democratic movement all over the country.

 

   The Tripura Left front committee in its reaction to the results said this thumping mandate of the people is no doubt very much positive, significant and bears testimony of the high level of political consciousness of the people. This mandate of the people is in favour of peace and development. It said with this re election, responsibilities of the Left Front have also increased manifold. Despite all the limitations, the Front shall leave no stone unturned to take the state towards fulfilling the increasing aspirations of the people for development by maintaining transparency, efficiency and dynamism at every level while running people’s elected bodies. The Left Front also vowed to elaborately scrutinise why in some panchayats people have not voted for us and take necessary political - organisational steps to regain the support of the people.