People's Democracy

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


No. 18

May 01, 2011




Congress Campaign in Bengal:

Travesty of Truth


IN the run up to the crucial third and the fourth phases of the elections to the state assembly in West Bengal, the leaders of the UPA are betraying a sense of desperation. In Kerala, the utterances of the UPA chairperson, the prime minister and the high profile Congress general secretary in charge of youth affairs, added grist to the mill of the LDF campaign much to the dismay of the state UDF, led by the Congress. Likewise in West Bengal, such utterances are proving costly for the Trinamul-Congress alliance. However, in Bengal, the third corner of the Kerala triumvirate has been replaced by the union home minister.


The UPA chairperson made a bizarre charge against the people of West Bengal saying that they have been fooled continuously by the Left Front for the last 35 years. An insult to the Bengali people of a similar dimension was handed down by the late Shri Rajiv Gandhi when he described Calcutta as a dying city, during the course of the assembly elections. The people of Bengal responded predictably by routing the Congress and giving the Left Front a resounding victory then. This time around, the UPA chairperson’s utterances are literally like adding insult to injury. Surely, the people of West Bengal will respond in an adequate measure.


The prime minister who himself chose not to exercise his franchise and be part of the electoral process in the elections to the Assam state assembly landed up in Bengal to exhort the people to vote to defeat the Left Front. He repeated in several meetings that, “they (the Left) don’t have a policy for development”, apart from many other charges that have been answered in these columns earlier. He went on to add that this lack of a policy for development continued for over three decades. Ironically, it was the same prime minister who in 2005 at a meeting in Kolkata said: “I am also delighted to be here today because of the opportunity to share a platform with the dynamic chief minister of West Bengal Shri Buddhadeb Bhattacharyaji….. I have greatly admired his wit and wisdom, his qualities of head and heart, his courage of conviction and his passionate commitment to the cause of the working people of India and, in particular, to the people of Bengal.” Further, he went on to say, “It used to be said in the 19th century that `what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow’. In more recent times, doubt began to be raised whether this was any longer true with other states moving ahead in the race for development and modernisation. With Buddhadeb Babu at the helm of affairs, it appears Bengal is once again forging ahead.” In a similar vein a couple of years later, the prime minister reaffirmed that the Bengal chief minister was one of India’s best chief ministers.


Having said this earlier, the prime minister’s about turn today, laced with a litany of disinformation can only be construed as the height of politics of opportunism. Irrespective of the merit of the issues involved, it is clear that praise or condemnation by the prime minister is based on the political alliances that he requires to continue to be the prime minister. When the Left support was inevitable, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya was the best chief minister in the country. When the Trinamul Congress support is crucial for the UPA-II government, the prime minister, according to a leading Bengal daily newspaper, “chronicled the decline of Bengal under the Left Front rule”.


Taking recourse to such travesty of truth and objectivity, the prime minister in fact compared Gujarat in a better light than Bengal on the issue of the quality of life of the Muslim minorities. On matters of facts like levels of education, participation in political processes, beneficiaries of land reforms and now beneficiaries of reservations in jobs and admissions for educational institutions according to the Ranganath Mishra Commission recommendations, the record has been set straight in these columns in the past. It is however, the politics of such a comparison that concern us here.


By showing Bengal in a poorer light than Gujarat, the prime minister appears to be condoning the ghastly communal carnage that was spearheaded in Gujarat in 2002. In fact, it was this that drew the attention of the nation to the dangers that the communal forces pose to the very unity and integrity of our country. This in turn led to the recognition of the need for a secular government at the centre which laid the basis for the Left’s outside support which in the first place brought the UPA government into existence. The PM’s utterances however betray the fact that he does not seem to be sharing such concerns. The singular preoccupation appears to be to save his beleaguered government, facing the threat of implosion due to mega corruption. To achieve this he seems to be prepared to go to an extent that was hitherto considered inconceivable. By doing this the PM is virtually announcing that there is very little difference between the Congress and the BJP in its antipathy to the Left while there is complimentarity when it comes to the neo-liberal economic reforms and a strategic understanding with imperialism. In the bargain, for the Congress, communalism appears no longer to be a danger that needs to be fought and defeated. It is for these reasons that they have no compunctions in aligning with the Trinamul Congress which had rejoined the BJP led NDA in 2002, months after the state sponsored communal carnage in Gujarat, virtually endorsing the communal genocide.


The union home minister went further when he thundered menacingly, “we know what has happened and what has been happening in the last 34 years in the state.” He went on to say, “for too long we had a government that neglected governance. West Bengal is the worst governed state in the country and our immediate concern is law and order.” He appeared to be supportive of the Maoist collaboration with the Trinamul Congress despite the incontrovertible evidence that has been provided to him and the country not only by the CPI(M) but even by sitting Trinamul members in the Lok Sabha and some Maoist leaders themselves.  Yet he goes on to blame, like his ally the Trinamul Congress (whose support he requires to continue to remain in government), the CPI(M) and the Left Front, for the violence and anarchy in the state by saying that it was “turning the state into a killing field”. Surely, the union home minister, with his claims of “carefully watching the situation in West Bengal” would know that since the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, 388 cadre of the Left Front were brutally murdered by the Maoist-Trinamul combine in the state. In fact, the victim of such violence – the Left Front – is now being blamed to be the perpetrator of such violence. Mr Home Minister, `the boot is on the other foot’.


The same home minister in a conference in 2010 of the DGPs and IGPs of the states that have been in the forefront of fighting the menace of Maoist violence said, “All state governments are committed to the two-pronged strategy of development and police action”. While assuring the support of the centre and the provision of more paramilitary forces, the home minister said, “We made it clear that it would take several years before we are able to contain the CPI (Maoist) and roll back their offensive. I think the people will understand – even if the critics do not – that the conflict will be a long drawn one, that patience is the key, that mistakes will be made, and that the security forces need material and moral support to carry out their tasks.” Today, in an expression of unfiltered political opportunism, this very union home minister is behaving like a critic that he refers to rather than adhering to what he himself had said a few months ago. The eagerness to malign the Left Front in order to seek the victory of the Trinamul Congress is based on his need of the latter for the UPA government to continue to remain in office.


Such `eagerness’ led the home minister to declare that in West Bengal, “there has been no development since independence (sic). Campaigning in a constituency that was represented by the CPI(M)’s Abu Rezzak Mollah continuously for eight terms,  he said that he won all these elections “in an unfair manner.” Preposterous as this comes from a person whose initially announced defeat in 2009 general elections eventually turned into a victory!


The union home minister will have to answer if he agrees with the prime minister’s repeated assertion that Maoist violence poses the gravest threat to India’s internal security. In fact the prime minister himself has to clarify if he continues to maintain this assessment. If so, how can he share power in an alliance with the Trinamul Congress that is in open collaboration with the Maoists?


In the Jungalmahal area where the Maoist terror and violence have been most active, the political objective of the Trinamul Congress alliance is to deny the Left Front its sitting 41 of the 45 seats (before delimitation) by terrorising the population. It thus hopes that this will give it the edge in securing a majority in the state assembly – a majority that it seeks to engineer, through violence and terror and not through the democratic support of the people.


The people of West Bengal, mature and conscious as they have been during the last three decades and more will surely see through such naked double speak and political opportunism. The people have realised that what Bengal needs is peace and development. Neither is possible with the Trinamul Congress-Congress alliance at the helm of affairs.


(April 27, 2011)