(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 01, 2011
Jadavpur: Contest To Be or
Not To Be is the Question
POLITICS is not always rational. Even more so politics of one man/woman and one point outfits like that of Mamata Banerjee. Her choice of Manish Gupta, retired chief secretary of Bengal, to take on chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, looking for his fourth successive win in Jadavpur, has simply baffled knowledgeable and lay people alike. A round of this constituency at what must have been periphery of Kolkata metropolis just four days before the polling, shows no signs of Gupta throwing even a healthy challenge to Buddhadeb, who won from this constituency of roughly 2,52,000 voters in 2006 by a big margin of 58,000 votes.
But irrational too has its own rationale. In this case this is based on simple arithmetic devoid of politics and a cynical twist. Simple arithmetic is based on the fact that in 2009 parliamentary elections, in reconstituted Jadavpur assembly segment, the lead of CPI(M) candidate was reduced to around 19,000 only. Further on in Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections held only last year, if vote of all the 10 wards that make this sprawling constituency are put together, the Left Front has trailed behind by around 700 votes. This might have deluded TMC chief. But there comes that twist that cynics point out. Smelling possibility of a huge victory in Jadavpur, TMC leader could not allow any of her known and powerful lieutenants to claim credit for a giant killer victory and further add to his/her stature. Hence the mantle fell on a politically rootless retired IAS officer, though this seems to have led to a kind of non-contest in Jadavpur.
Anyhow voters in Jadavpur are largely unconcerned about these number crunching exercises. For this constituency of around 80 per cent East-Pakistan refugee population, Red flag is the only one that they have always identified with and stood with. And this association is born out of their experience of more than half a century. It is the Red flag that has stood with them through instrument of UCRC (United Central Refugee Council), ensured rights to them, including rights to their bustees and lands and it is the Red flag that has always fought for them and has also made huge sacrifices. It is the Left Front rule that has ensured a secure life for them. They may complain, they may crib, some of them may just refuse to listen, as some feel had happened during last corporation elections, but once chips are down they cannot but stand with Left Front in general and CPI(M) in particular. Khokan Gosh Dastidar, CPI(M) district secretariat member and secretary of Jadavpur zonal committee-2, talking to People’s Democracy in one room office of the Party, sees this consolidation in favour of Left already happening.
His optimism is not without reasons. On April 9, when Buddhadeb Bhattacharya went in padayatra to meet his electors, it turned out to be an unprecedented mass procession. Deepa Ray, another veteran member of CPI(M) district committee confirms that in her Party life since 1957 she has not seen such a huge procession in Jadavpur ever before. Khokan thinks that even if you reduce few thousand from neighbouring Kasba constituency, more than a lakh voters of CM's constituency were part of his procession. An overwhelmed Buddhadeb said 'this is going to be bigger than my 2006 victory.' On the other hand Mamata Banarjee's meeting in the same constituency two days before our visit only had an audience of around three thousand with three fourths brought from outside the constituency in a large number of vehicles.
The chief minister’s challenger has been able to think of only one issue to raise. 'CM does not devote much time for the constituency.' Even this does not cut much ice firstly because people here know this is not true. On April 24, the evening before campaigning ends, he plans to address three meetings in his constituency. But people of Jadavpur are not exercised about frequency of CM's visits because water, sewage, power, education institutes etc .. all their demands from the government are largely getting fulfilled. And their biggest concern of peace and security is being adequately taken care of. Reliving horrors of 1970s is the last thing they would like to see.
Essay in Contrasts
could not have been a greater contrast. From Kasba constituency, in
Left Front has fielded a 25 year old M A economics student, Satrup
take on Mamata's trusted lieutenant and old warhorse Jawed Khan. This
secretariat member and student of
Both Satrup and his opponent have deep roots in this assembly area, one as a gentle, intelligent and academically good, next-door lad and the other as a land magnate controlling and dealing in vast stretches of land. One comes out as a suave, soft-spoken, handsome, genuine boy full of energy and dreams, while the other as a bully, bothered mainly about using political power to acquire more power, to serve his own interests better.
It is not for nothing that computer graphics designer Rizwanur Rahman, driven to commit suicide for marrying a girl from powerful business family of Todies, is said to have mentioned local MLA Jawed Khan in his suicide note, though CBI pursuing this case has decided to look the other way in spite of court questioning omissions of this kind. This incident has dented his hold on those sections of minority community that might have looked up to him as a protector-bully.
No doubt Satrup, an active member of SFI since 2005, is no novice to politics. Still his candidature brings youth's and particularly student's perspective to politics, which is also refreshingly new and creative. By putting up 153 new candidates in this election (up from 137 in 2006 elections), the Left Front has definitely given a push in the direction of harnessing energy of youth.
Democracy in a backroom of a very modest but equally busy, two
local office of CPI(M), Sachin Sen Smriti Bhawan that is also his
office, Satrup is confident of overwhelming support of youth for not
candidature but the entire plank of the Left in this election. He puts
complex idea very simply. There is a fundamental difference in the way
looked at by politics of the ruling classes and that of the Left in
brings two relevant examples in this connection. The central government
hardly 4 per cent of its budget on education, but Left Front government
As a proof of youth's huge and growing support to the Left, Satrup points out that in 336 college student union elections held last year, SFI has won in 226 unions while TMC-Congress’ student organisations could win in only 110 unions. Similarly, in school teachers body elections of last year, Left candidates have won in all the districts. This shows growing support for the Left amongst important opinion making sections of society.
Kasba is a new constituency created by chopping and stitching together parts from earlier Ballygunj — represented at one time by Sachin Sen —and Dhakuria — now gone out of existence — Jadavpur and Sonarpur constituencies. As one of the most diverse constituencies, this totally urban constituency has areas from very posh and rich to huge poor working class ones, mainly as bustee clusters. The Left strength lies primarily in these clusters.
But Jawed Khan's area of strength is also in large bustee clusters in areas like Topasia. Very largely Muslim population here has been traditionally in work of leather tanning. Though large parts of tanning business has been shifted out of this area, still a very large number of small leather goods units are functioning here. But this fortress of Jawed Khan also seems to have been breached, as Muslim women in huge and growing numbers are flocking to Left Front's meetings.
Fears of replay of late sixties and early seventies are pushing minorities away from violent politics of TMC-Congress and their face in Kasba. Same is true of middle classes in general and even large parts of 'parivartanvallas'. Satrup underlined the fact of killing of 16 students in the campuses at the hands of Trinmuli goons and their allies as a reason for revival of fears of voilent Sixties and Seventies.
interesting feature of Kasba constituency is its once thriving '
doubt in Kolkata Municipal corporation elections less than a year back,
of winning three of the six corporation wards constituting this
segment, CPI(M) was little less than 12 thousand votes behind the total
polled by TMC and Congress together. But swelling support to Left's
campaign suggests this gap could be made up and new
CPI(M) KA DUM
It's not just what Gupta, member of CPI(M) South 24 Parganas district committee claims. There are more than sufficient indicators of the same. Most telling of these indicators being that the attendance in prime minister Manmohan Singh and Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee's joint public meeting near central jail was not more than 5000 people. But the next day, CPI(M) candidate’s padayatra/rally, saw more than 50,000 people participating. As if to give further political hype to this contest, former speaker of Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee, also addressed a huge meeting in support of CPI(M) candidate Gautam Deb.
amongst most powerful bases of CPI(M) in
This has led Dumdum to emerge as an urban conglomerate on fringes of Kolkata, with a huge middle class and even substantive upper middle class population. This seems to have led to some erosion in popular support for Left, though Left's support amongst working people -- airport workers being an important part of -- and East-Pakistan refugees largely remains intact.
saw CPI(M) not only lose Dumdum parliamentary seat, but also trail
TMC-Congress opponent in this segment, though by a small margin of
seven hundred votes only. Further, in elections held later for Dumdum
But as Swapan Gupta explains, there is a noticeable change in popular mood in the last one and half years. Besides political and organisational efforts made by the CPI(M) and the initiatives taken by the Left Front government for strengthening social security for marginalised sections, including workers in unorganised sector, people's experience of TMC-Congress rule in the two municipal boards and also at national level has led to disillusionment of even people who got carried away two years back by their anti-Left rhetoric. Successful resistance to efforts to privatise Dumdum airport seems to have given new confidence to airport workers. Effect is visible amongst workers and youth. SFI has won in all college student union elections in this area. The student movement here has given SFI lots of its earlier leaders including Shyamal Chakravarthy, Gautam Deb and late Subhash Chakravarthy. Deb is contesting from this constituency post-delimitation while sitting MLA, Rekha Gosh, is contesting from the reconstituted Dumdum North constituency.
The candidature of Gautam Deb, who has been directly challenging Mamata Banerjee's falsities and preposterous claims, has no doubt given momentum for consolidation in favour of Left. Trinamool’s decision to put up a known but apolitical theatre actor, Bratya Basu, has not been able to even slowdown this process. If anything, his total dependence on Trinamool's ruffian brigade has only increased popular fears of return of violent 1970s in case TMC-led combine reaches anywhere near Writers Building. His claim to be Khandaoon (wooden slipper of old age) candidate for Mamata di is not helping matters for him either. In spite of media's presentation of this contest as the battle royale of this election, CPI(M) appears to be safely placed here in what was once considered its fortress anyway.
Chatkal Dialect Ready
to Rebuff TMC’s ‘Change’ Slogan
municipal area of
There are three big chatkals (jute mills) here where, traditionally, people of numerous castes and religions from several parts of the country, speaking many dialects and languages, work for a living. The dialect spoken here is a product of hybridisation of the Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, English and some other languages. Replying to the calls for a ‘change’ in this very hybrid dialect, an aged worker of Hindalco says, “Change…. That goes all time. Change… law of science. Me… a graduate. My… father illiterate. My son… a post-graduate.” But the kind of change “they” (the TMC and Congress) are talking about, is an unnatural demand. “My marriage…. 28 years back. But wife to remain same after all. Our government… like our mother. It… to remain.” His facial expression turns different when one talks about the slogan of have a Left Front government for the eighth time. “Left Front only… none else… I say a Left Front government… for tenth time.”
surprise that Ms Kanika Ganguli, the CPI(M) candidate from
But it is not
a matter of
a candidate’s popularity either.
At the same
issue of peace and security has become a burning political issue for
sections of the middle class. It is, however, a fact that
In the 2009
elections, the people of the
April 20, 2011