NEXT BENGAL BEST BENGAL
WHEN people peep into the much-awaited CPI-M manifesto for the Bengal polls released in the afternoon of 20 March, certainly they would make it a matching exercise with their experience of the Left rule till 2011. It’s also interesting to see what the CPI-M has gathered from the five years stint in the Opposition bench.
CPI-M’s 16-page manifesto, produced after receiving inputs and suggestions from common people, shows no sign of alternate thoughts for Bengal. Rather it reiterates a few stances that have proved counterproductive earlier.
It begins with a call for voting against the 5-year long fascist-like terror, autocratic rule, and total anarchy perpetrated by the Trinamool Congress and its government.
Next eight paragraphs are devoted to criticising the BJP-led NDA government with the rationales such as the Modi government is breaching the Nehruvian non-alignment policy.
The undergraduate and graduate syllabuses in West Bengal continue forcing on the students lessons on non-alignment policy despite it dying a natural death with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1990s. In a similar fashion, CPI-M is still trying to convince the reality of multi-polar world with a weak hyphen of non-alignment between bipolar world of a bygone era. How does this relate to the Bengal Assembly elections of 2016?
Three out of the eight paragraphs are about the alleged extreme communalism practised by the BJP and the RSS. They conclude that as a reaction to this, communalism in the minority community has increased in Bengal during the past five years and the Trinamool has fanned this.
If correction is an option, CPI-M manifesto writers may consider some facts well known to Bengal. That, the Trinamool government started to lure the minorities since 2011 and this antagonised a sizeable number of people in the majority community. BJP came in Centre only in 2014, three years after.
How do floating voters, who are the most pragmatic ones, repose trust on a party that does not do its research properly? Or is this an effort to bring back ideologically inclined support-base that has migrated to Trinamool finding it more Left-leaning in actions as regards land acquisition for industry. Read this with the fact that CPI-M has lost a sizeable chunk of its farmers’ front members in past few years.
In the last paragraph, while talking about scams, extortions by real-estate syndicates, CPI-M maintains that BJP at the Centre is helping Trinamool Congress by slowing down the pace of CBI investigation in the Saradha Chit-fund Scam.
This is a perfect prelude to CPI-M’s clarion call to voters in page 14 of the manifesto that says weakening BJP in Bengal can be achieved by routing the Trinamool from power.
This is perhaps a reflection of the realisation that the electoral alliance with the Congress has put the CPI-M between Scylla and Charybdis. The Congress-Left combine has thrown up a possibility that if the Trinamool gets a less comfortable seat margin, Mamata Banerjee may opt for an overt or covert help from the BJP to run a new government.
The party has made 18 promises to voters urging them to elect a Left, democratic, and religion-neutral (secular, though much used, does not capture the nature of governmental action to citizens) government.
Interestingly, five out of these 18 promises have already been taken care of vigorously by the Trinamool government during 2011-2016.
It promises food security at much lower rate than what the Trinamool government is trying to operationalise now. The promise to increase electricity production would make people remember how the power situation has been turned around in the past five years.
CPI-M’s promise number 14 would invariably raise the question why the Left could not improve the health services during its 34 year rule, while Mamata government could achieve much on this front in its five-year rule.
One welcome promise in the CPI-M manifesto is the pledge to grant 20 per cent budgetary allocation to education sector. This stands apart, because on the most other promises, people would definitely rewind to the memories of the Left rule.
Given the intellectual standing of the party in public perception, the CPI-M manifesto could have made a better offer appealing for a chance to correct the follies of the past.
(Biplob LohoChoudhury is a professor of journalism at Visva-Bharati. He lives in Santiniketan, Birbhum. Click here to read his previous articles.)
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