West Bengal: Rift within the Left

West Bengal: Rift within the Left

In Kolkata, discussing the rift within the Left Front and its subsequent decimation is taboo.

Left leaders hardly want to talk about it in public although behind closed doors and at party meetings there is said to have been heated debates over what is left to the drubbing the CPI(M) and its allies received in successive elections since 2006.

This is a saga that is better left untold, feel Left leaders but words leak out and roll out in the open.

Are the days of the Left Front over? Is the Left in its present form facing a wall beyond which its vision does not go? What is the future of the Left? Crucial and critical questions face the party apparatchiks of Alimuddin Street, the iconic headquarters of the party in central Kolkata, which has held the pulse of the people’s movement for decades.

Ask these questions and even Left leaders seem to be groping in the dark. The outward face of confidence belies the suppressed sighs of the loser and the dreams of the delusional.

Senior CPI(M) leaders from West Bengal, who had believed for years that they have the final say in the party’s movement elsewhere in the country, look lost when posed with the difficult questions. Most of them shy away from responding and pat comes the patent reply that too much is being made of the Left’s decimation.

“Winning and losing are part of parliamentary democracy. Since we became a part of this system we knew we would win some and lose some. This is a constant process. We will rise again,” said a senior party leader in Kolkata.

He, however, refused to hover over the matter for long or probe deeper. “We have taken a critical look at the matter. We know what went wrong and we’re in the process of setting things right.

Things will change soon. With Narendra Modi in power at the Centre and Trinamool Congress in Bengal, during the next election people will again realise we are the right kind of force who should be in government,” he said. The leader made it clear he is not willing to dwell further on the matter.

A senior RSP leader, however, agreed that the fissures within the Left Front appeared when the CPI(M)-led Front government ruled in Bengal under the stewardship of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and started taking decisions that most Front partners did not support or subscribe to.

“We were against forcible land acquisition, even CPI, Forward Bloc and the others agreed what was happening at Singur and Nandigram was wrong. When we asked CPI(M) leaders why our core electorate was being jeopardised in favour of proximity to industrialists like Tata, they had no satisfactory answer,” he said.

Nandigram firing

The rift within the Left widened when police opened fire on an unarmed mob of agitators against land acquisition at Nandigram in East Midnapore district on March 14, 2007. “There were several questions over who ordered the police to open fire.

Even Chief Minister Bhattacharjee started avoiding us and skipped a number of Left Front meetings to avoid answering uncomfortable questions posed by the allies,” the RSP leader said. His words found echo in a Forward Bloc leader’s comments who pointed out how Bhattacharjee was one of the main reasons behind the rift, along with highhandedness of other CPI(M) leaders.

All that, however, is a thing of the past. Out of power and with no favours to distribute, CPI(M) leaders have become more ‘sober’, not just with its political opponents but also with Front partners.

According to both the leaders from allied parties, the CPI(M) has given up on its ‘big brother’ attitude and is now ready to listen to voices from within its own party and from partner parties.

“Things have changed from earlier, most probably because we are not in power any more. There has been a sea change in the attitude of CPI(M) leaders who earlier held key ministries. People seem to have become more grounded,” said the state secretary of a CPI(M) ally party.

Analysts point out that with CPI(M)-led Left Front decimated in the Lok Sabha elections, both nationally as well as in the erstwhile citadel of Bengal, the CPI(M) leadership now seems to be more inclusive. Right now, there are talks of even involving fringe Left parties and organisations like the CPI (ML-Liberation) and Party for Democratic Socialism.

The call now is that of a “broader Left unity” where all like-minded parties should come together for the sake of saving the Left. The only divide among the Left parties now is over whether there should be a change of guard or alterations in policies to regain lost grounds.

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