People's Democracy

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


No. 17

April  24, 2011




It’s Time to Tell Who Stands Where


From Rajendra Sharma in Kolkata


AS soon as you enter the city of Kolkata from the Howrah Bridge side, there is a small vegetable market on the Maniktala Main Road, about 50 steps ahead of a big post office. It is not a market in the accepted sense of the word; only that small square-shaped, makeshift shops have been erected with the help of bamboo pieces and polythene sheets. The line of these shops continues up to some distance along the same road. The shopkeepers look completely hapless vis-à-vis any kind of administrative power. And yet, they have made the courageous decision to tell everybody about who they stand by. They have given an expression to their decision by hoisting flags on the top of their shops, so that they are visible to everyone. It’s a decisive election, they say. It’s time to stand up and loudly tell one and all as to who stands where. On the top of most of these decrepit shops can one see the Red Flag; the Trinamul Congress flags are indeed there but they are seen as exceptions only.      


With the polling that took place on April 18 for 54 seats spread over 6 districts, not only one phase of elections to the 294-member West Bengal state assembly has ended; the central issue of this election has also become clear. It is whether Bengal would move on a retrogression course in the name of a change or whether it would have unhindered progress in the interest of the toiling masses, of the minorities, women, dalits, backwards and other deprived people. Addressing a press conference on April 18 evening, Left Front chairman Biman Basu termed the 84 per cent polling on the day as normal, and congratulated the people of the area for the peaceful polling. One notes that the polling took place on the day without any untoward incident.


In the meantime the West Bengal Left Front is concentrating its attention on the second and third phases of the polling that are scheduled to take place on April 23 and April 27 respectively. While 50 assembly seats in Murshidabad, Nadia and Birbhum districts are to go to the polls in the second phase, the third phase would cover 75 seats in North and South 24 Paraganas and the metropolis of Kolkata. Hindi speaking people form a sizeable part of the population of Kolkata and North 24 Paraganas.


Election campaign is briskly proceeding almost simultaneously for both these phases. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya addressed two mass meetings at Bijpur and Panihati in North 24 Parganas district on April 18, saying the people of Bengal very well know what the Trinamul slogan of a change means for them. The common people are in a pitiable plight because of the kind of change one is witnessing in the Trinamul controlled panchayats and municipalities. The Trinamul kind of change means destruction of whatever positive Bengal has so far achieved. He also enumerated the three biggest priorities for the eighth Left Front government in the state. These are --- (1) supply of rice to all the needy people at Rs 2 a kg, irrespective of their division into the APL and BPL categories; (2) creation of job opportunities for the youth of the state; and (3) providing maximum possible social security to the unorganised sector workers so that they may have a life worth living. Apart from others, CPI(M) candidate Nirjharini Chakraborty also addressed the people at the Bijpur meeting.


At the Panihati meeting, the speakers included CPI(M) candidate Ahibhushan (Dulal) Chakraborty, Rekha Goswami who is the CPI(M)’s candidate for the North Dumdum assembly seat and Haripad Biswas who is the Left Front candidate for the Jagdal assembly seat.   


CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat reached Kolkata on April 19, to take part in the poll campaign for the second phase. He addressed two mass meetings in the evening in the Kolkata Port cum Garden Reach area. From the party centre, Polit Bureau members Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat have also reached Kolkata after having participated in the poll campaign in North Bengal areas.


Prakash Karat started his first mass meeting in Matiaburj by questioning the slogan of ‘change’ being raised by the Trinamul Congress – Congress alliance. He reminded the audience that Trinamul Congress is an integral part of the Congress led UPA-2 government that is ruling the country for the last two years since mid-2009. He then drew attention to the incessant and excruciating rise in the prices of essential commodities during these two years, some other anti-people policies of the central government and the spate of corruption scams that have taken place in this period. Accusing the Trinamul Congress of being a part of all these misdeeds, Karat said its leader, Ms Mamata Banerjee, cannot escape her responsibility by taking the plea that nobody had asked her about this or that thing, nobody had told her anything, that she did not know anything about these misdeeds. Urging the Trinamul supremo to desist from such theatrics, Karat said, “Here she poses as a tigress but becomes a deaf and dumb doll when she reaches Delhi.”


The CPI(M) leader said these forces want a ‘change’ in Bengal to do here precisely what they have been doing in the rest of the country through the UPA-2 government. Moreover, if they are attacking the Left, it is precisely because they want to implement their deathly policies in the country with a vengeance. The reason for the concerted attacks being launched on the Left by all the rightist, reactionary and pro-imperialist forces is that the Left is the main obstacle in their way. Appealing to all the toiling and deprived people to close their ranks and rebuff all these attacks on the Left, Karat expressed the conviction that a mandate to the Left Front for the eighth term would be the people’s fitting response to these attacks.


The CPI(M) general secretary appealed to the people of Matiaburj to vote the CPI(M)’s candidate, Badruzzaman Mollah, to victory.


On the same evening, Karat addressed another mass meeting in Kolkata Port area, asking for the people’s votes for the Forward Bloc candidate Moinuddin Shams.


The delimitation of electoral constituencies has led to a lot of alterations in the assembly segments in Kolkata and its effect can well be seen in the Matiaburj and Port areas as well. This is one of the reasons that instead of having a one-to-one contest, Left Front candidates in both these areas have to face multi-angular contests. Both these seats have a preponderance of poor, toiling people, and unorganised workers are in a majority in this population. Muslim minorities form a big chunk of population in both these segments.


Badruzzaman Molla’s constituency is a Muslim majority area. The BJP and also the Muslim League have put up their candidates here. Apart from Mumtaz Begum, official candidate of the Trinamul Congress – Congress alliance, Abdul Khaliq, a rebel Congressman, is also in the fray here. In response to queries about what effect the presence of a rebel Congressman would produce here, Mollah has only a one-line answer: “Who can say what they would do in the end.” In any case, there is real dissatisfaction within the Congress, which has been further aggravated by the fact that the Trinamul Congress put up Mumtaz Begum as its nominee after she deserted the Congress.


Though Mollah is contesting an assembly poll for the first time, he is an old and well known local leader, is a councillor in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, and was chairman of the Borough-15 till the last Municipal Corporation polls. He remands that the people of this assembly segment, which now comprises the northern portions of the Maheshtalla municipal constituency and six wards of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, do have some experience of the Trinamul brand of ‘change’ at the municipal level, and this experience is making them stand up against the Trinamul-led alliance. The Trinamul Congress is in control of the Maheshtalla municipal board for the last two years and of Kolkata Municipal Corporation for the last eight months. Of the wards that comprise this particular constituency, 9 are held by the Trinamul Congress and 6 by the Left Front. Mollah is confident that the bitter experience the people have got here about Trinamul dispensation will prove enough to bridge this gap. He emphatically says, “A big part of the public is with us.”


On the other hand, opposition to Moinuddin Shams is clearly divided. Pitted against him is former Trinamul MLA and a member of Mayor-in-Council, Farhad Haakim, as the official nominee of the Trinamul led alliance. But, outgoing MLA, Rampyari Ram, is also in the fray after the alliance rejected her claim to this seat. It is another thing that none of these two can be strictly called a former MLA of this constituency.