HARI BANSH JHA
After conducting elections for State Assemblies in five states of India in a free and fair manner, including in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Union Territory of Puducherry, the Elections Commission (EC) announced the result of the elections on May 13, 2011. Elections in India at the national, state or even at local levels are routine affairs, as this is part of a democratic exercise. An important aspect of the elections was that voter turnout in most of the places was over 80 per cent, which indicated that democracy is deeply rooted in India. But, most importantly, it also exhibited the people’s desire for change. The people have proved that they were not the hostage of any ideology or political party of either regional or national level. They were also not slave to any factor such as caste or creed. If at all any factor worked during the elections, it was the politics for development.
In West Bengal, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that came to power in 1977, continued to rule for 34-long years. But, it was rejected by the people for its failure to develop the state. Like in West Bengal, the communist-led government in Kerala was also shown the way out almost on the same ground. In Tamil Nadu, the government led by Karunanidhi was ousted as it was involved in scandals and nepotism. However, the people in Assam gave continuity to the Congress Party-led government for some of its good works.
Significantly, however, West Bengal was the centre of attraction for not only the Indians but for the international community. All wanted to see if people in the state still loved the red regime of the communists, or they wanted change and go green under the leadership of the 56-year old political activist, Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress. By giving clear majority to the Trinamool Congress, the people clearly demonstrated that they were not hostage of the red, but were in favour of forces that could ensure better law and order situation and perform well in the interest of the people.
In this context, social worker Dwaipayan Bhattacharyya said, “With the growing influences of market forces in the national economy and heightened competition between states to attract private capital, the communists found it increasingly difficult to match its anti-corporate, anti-globalization rhetoric with the practice of competitive federalism.”
Not long ago, the people in neighboring Bihar state of India had amply demonstrated during the State Assembly elections in November 2010 that they would not be bogged down by the cheap slogan of caste, but they meant real business i.e. the business for the development of the state. Such a zeal for change in Bihar strengthened the hand of engineer-turned politician, Nitish Kumar, for the second time.
Over the years, West Bengal lost most during the communist rule. Once the state was at the forefront among all the Indian states. It had made all round progress politically, economically, culturally, educationally, religiously and even spiritually. For a long time, hardly any state in India could match West Bengal in matters of prosperity. Therefore, there was a saying, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.”
But, where is West Bengal now? It is in fact in a far worse situation as compared to many other states of India. Most of the industries are either closed down due to labour problem or they had to move to other states of India. Infrastructural facilities are poor. No new investment is coming forth. So, unemployment is rife.
It is well known that the communist regime in Bengal was least interested in the people’s welfare. Only the political workers of the communist party benefited. Inequality in income
and wealth grew among the haves and have-nots.
Extreme radical groups thrived from such apathy. In such a moment of despair, the people of the state did not trust the left regime led by the Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee when he promised during the time of elections to provide rice to the poor at Rs. 2 per kg and free medical insurance. Rather, the people punished many of the stalwarts in the left front regime, including the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee by giving them humiliating defeat in the elections.
However, Mamata’s path as Chief Minister of West Bengal is not going to be rosy, either. People are so conscious today that they would throw her out of power if she fails to deliver concrete results. The silver lining, however, is that she has understood it well that West Bengal would take a lead in India after the decades of gloom, if it fares well economically. She knows it well that West Bengal is the land of opportunities.
The failure of communism in West Bengal is the failure to understand the modern day reality of keeping pace with market-led approach of economic growth. Such a change in the leadership in these states, however, might prove a blessing in improving governance structure, creating an egalitarian society, accelerating the rate of economic growth and thereby making India still more green in the years to come.