People's Democracy

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


No. 07

February 17, 2013


Like Father, Like Son


Political Commentator


AS the campaign for the elections to the Tripura state assembly was ending, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi thundered that CPI(M) will be ousted from 'Hindustan'. Indeed history is repeating itself. During the 1986 elections to the West Bengal state assembly, the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi notoriously declared that “Calcutta is a dying city”. Not only did the Left Front sweep those elections, but it continued to win the next four elections with a two-thirds majority.


Like Father, Like Son! This statement by Rahul Gandhi will only prove the point that history repeats itself, the first time as a tragedy and we shall have to wait for the second time when it will be a farce.


It has by now become fairly monotonous for the CPI(M) to hear such threats of being banished from the country. In its heydays, the Congress party after its return to power at the centre in 1980 similarly decreed. One of its prominent Bengal leaders had said that the CPI(M) will be thrown into the Bay of Bengal. What happened for the next three decades is history. It is the Congress which continues to limp and not recover in the state till date.


The prime minister was scheduled to campaign in Tripura. The day before his arrival the people of Tripura were bracing themselves to hear the prime minister explain to them on why they should defeat the incumbent Left Front government, for he had often praised Tripura as the best administered state amongst all the North-Eastern states. Routinely the central government has been awarding the Tripura government commendations for extraordinary performance in various fields and ranking the state the first among all the states in the country on various scores. In terms of man-day employment under the MNREGA, Tripura ranks first among all states and union territories in India by providing eighty-six out of the hundred days, on an average, guaranteed by the scheme. Tripura ranks first amongst all states in distributing pattas to the adivasis under the Tribal Forest Act. Nearly 95 per cent of those identified have been given the legal right to land and forest produce. And the list goes on. The prime minister seems to have realised the untenability of his asking the people of Tripura to vote out such a government and chose not to come for the campaign.


Next the Tripura people were informed that the Congress president Sonia Gandhi will be visiting. In fact, her campaign schedule was widely advertised throughout the media. To the utter disappointment of the Congress party, she too cancelled her programme. While no official reason was given, it was circulated that following the hanging of Afzal Guru, security considerations did not permit her to travel to a border state. Now, this is strange. The Special Protection Group (SPG), or the black commandos, is in charge of her security. The same SPG is also in charge of Rahul Gandhi's security. If security concerns prevented one from travelling, how could the same security agency permit the other? Clearly like the prime minister, the Congress president also appears to have felt that it would be untenable to ask the people to defeat the Left Front government, given its track record.


For after all, the Congress party is seeking to gain political capital out of their so-called steadfast commitment to protect the country's security. Afzal Guru's hanging was the immediate backdrop that buttresses such a Congress campaign. In Tripura however, the Congress party is in alliance with the INPT, whose chief was the commander of the Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) who engineered a series of clashes that sought to divide Tripura ethnically claiming hundreds of innocent lives in the past. Today he is contesting these elections. It is common knowledge in Tripura that the INPT is the political front of the extremist NFLT, which has been conducting violent campaigns in the past in Tripura fracturing the unity of the tribal and non-tribal population. The Congress-INPT alliance is a contradiction that the Congress party can never explain, leave alone convince the people of Tripura. It is therefore little wonder that the Congress president chose not to campaign for its party candidates in the state.


Rahul Gandhi on his part assiduously avoided all references to such questions that are upper most in the minds of the Tripura voters. Instead, he repeated his beaten track campaign USP – the central government has been generously doling out funds for development to the state but the state government is misusing them for its partisan interests. It has probably not registered on him that the government of India and the department of North-East development has noted that amongst all NE states, it is only in Tripura that the monies allocated for development works are actually spent on developmental activities. Even the prime minister has often echoed this. In any case, the funds distributed by the central government are not the personal property of anybody, least of the Congress party. The leadership of the Congress party is of course, its property and that of the family. Under the constitution of India and the five yearly recommendations of the finance commission, central funds are devolved to all states. This is a mandate no central government can by-pass or ignore. It can however, manoeuvre the release of such funds in order to settle political scores with such state governments which it considers as politically antagonistic. West Bengal and Tripura have often been victims of such politicking and manoeuvring of the Congress government at the centre, in the past.


The Congress vice president has a track record of miserable electoral performances, whenever he has used this argument in state elections – Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat. The electoral outcome in Tripura would be no different.


Such a campaign comes in the backdrop of incredulous promises made by the Congress party to the people of Tripura. If elected, they promised to give a kilo of rice at one rupee. This is a party that is refusing to give the Indian people universal food security by providing 35 kg of rice per family, both APL and BPL, at not more than rupees 2 per kg. Yet in Tripura it promises to give at half this price. It has promised to generate new jobs for the youth. This comes from a party whose economic policies have brought the country to its worst economic performance in a decade, with the GDP growth now officially estimated to be just 5 per cent. It is clear that employment opportunities have shrunk considerably all over the country. Despite its miserable performance on the economic front, Congress party promises the moon to the people of Tripura.


Tripura today has emerged as the fourth state in the whole country in terms of literacy rates. Tripura probably has the largest number of educated and trained youth population among all the North-Eastern states. This youth is looking for opportunities to be created for their gainful employment. It is precisely this objective that the Left Front manifesto addresses through the development of medium and small scale enterprises in the state. This has caught both the imagination of the youth and gives them hope of a better future.


It would therefore not be surprising at all to see the victory of the Left Front in these assembly elections and the formation of the seventh Left Front government in Tripura.