WEST BENGAL PANCHAYAT ELECTION: GATHERED VIEWS

Reading signs
One swallow does not make a summer and the loss of a few seats does not mark the beginning of the end of a political regime. This is not to suggest that the losses suffered by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the zilla parishad elections are without significance. One thing must be made clear: the results in no way indicate that the overall dominance of the CPI(M) at the village level has in any way been broken, even in east Midnapur. Yet the defeats have drawn the public attention that they have because of the areas in which they have occurred, and the events that preceded the elections in both Singur and Nandigram. Both places have been at the forefront of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s policy of acquiring agricultural land for industrialization in West Bengal, and of opposition to such policy. It is thus easy to draw the conclusion that the election results are a verdict against industrialization. Such a conclusion would be simplistic.
There are other factors that need to be considered to understand the significance of the losses suffered in Nandigram and Singur. The CPI(M) will have to accept that the politics of terror no longer fetches electoral dividends. Perhaps it did at one time, but it no longer does. The perception and the nature of politics even in the rural world have obviously undergone a change that the comrades are not willing to either recognize or accept. The CPI(M) and the government it heads would do well to recall the adverse comments made on West Bengal by the Sachar committee. Muslims in the state featured badly in every sphere — from education to government employment — that the Sachar committee had considered. It would be unrealistic to believe that the poor conditions of the Muslims had nothing to do with the way the rural folk voted in a place like Nandigram or a in a district like Malda. (It goes without saying that the conditions of the Muslims should be improved irrespective of election results at whatever level.) Under the circumstances, the CPI(M) should count its blessings that the results have not been worse.
It could, in fact, have been worse for the Left Front government since it chose, when faced with opposition, to occupy a dubious middle ground. Having begun a process of industrialization it pressed the pause button when its policy of land acquisition encountered resistance. Given the fragmentation of land holdings and the layers of usufructuary rights vested in land, it will be idealistic to expect that land will move from agriculture to industry through the operation of market forces without state intervention. The challenge before Mr Bhattacharjee is to continue with the process of industrialization and to manage the fallout without allowing the cadre of his party to run berserk. His failure to do all this will make the loss of a few rural seats into a setback for the entire economy and society of West Bengal. (The Telegraph) 23.5.08

CPM banks on Dooars mandate- Morcha meets failed, says Asok

The results of the panchayat polls in the Dooars have made it clear that people there do not want their area to be included in the separate state of Gorkhaland demanded by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Darjeeling district CPM leaders said here today.
“Morcha president Bimal Gurung, at a number of meetings in the Dooars, had urged residents to vote against the CPM and the Left allies. But as the results show, we have done exceptionally well in the Dooars, especially in Malbazar, Birpara, Metelli and Nagrakata blocks where the Morcha meetings were held,” Bengal urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said.
“We take this mandate as an outright refusal by the residents to express solidarity with the Morcha and its demands,” the CPM leader added. “People even voted us back in power at the Kalchini panchayat samiti, ousting the Congress.”
The district CPM leadership also thanked chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for clarifying his government’s stance on the Morcha’s statehood demand. A four-member delegation of the hill party met the chief minister in Calcutta yesterday. At the meeting, Bhattacharjee reportedly asked the Morcha to focus on greater autonomy for the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.
“We now expect the Morcha to play a responsible role in ending the stalemate in the hills through discussions with the state and maybe, the Centre,” Jibitesh Sarkar, a state secretariat member of the CPM, said.
Morcha leaders, however, denied the urban development minister’s claims. “We had never passed any directive to the voters in the Dooars and always said they were free to vote for any candidate. The inference drawn by the CPM is wrong, as voting in the panchayat polls and expressing support for Gorkhaland are different issues. We still say that the residents of the Dooars support our demand,” Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said.

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