West Bengal set to vote change

Polls are to signal one critically significant trend - will the seven uninterrupted terms of CPI(M)-led Left Front rule end and usher in a new era for the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and its parent party or will the Left manage last-minute miracles to unsettle the fancied applecart being driven by the Mamata-Pranab Mukherjee combine?
Questions galore are being raised on the veracity of ‘winds of change' purportedly blowing in Bengal in favour of Trinamool Congress, specially after its meteoric rise in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. It is more of a riddle for many in the state as to how a party with just 35 legislators in a house of 294 could suddenly start posing such a monumental challenge to a monolithic organisation as CPI(M).

Left in the lurch

Is it inertia, lack of critical will to perform, typical complacency, mounting corruption in the ranks in the last 30 years of uninterrupted power or a sum total of all this that have made the task quite difficult for the Left this time and given the arch rival issues a dime a dozen on a platter to nail the ruling clique? While issues are many and stakes heavy, complaints against the Left Front are too many.

Even in the previous assembly poll in 2006, the Marxists were a bit pushed to a corner and a last minute hitch between the Congress and sibling Trinamool saw the alliance going haywire and paved the way for a split in the opposition votebank, leading to the victory of the CPI(M) and its allies. Records show that in more than 90 seats, the Left candidates would have lost the poll had votes not split.

It is only but natural that both the parties have become wiser since then. And despite harbouring differences, the duo managed an alliance in the Lok Sabha poll and the Left
Front came hurtling down from its much vaunted edifice. What came as a bit of a shock to many was that senior Left leaders, having seen the writing on the wall, were loathe to reform or at least generate vibes that would act as a shock-absorber to the traditional votebanks. The civic polls that followed in 2010, bore ominous portends, with the slide of the Left continuing unabated and rise of the TMC and Congress. And this happened without the latter stitching an alliance at the hustings.

Stakes for the Congress are arguably heavier than its sibling. The slew of scams that confronted the national party in recent times, has painted a very poor picture, notwithstanding prime minister Manmohan Singh. Unlike the DMK in Tamil Nadu,
Trinamool does not have a Raja in its ranks (read UPA ministry) although Mamata has been criticised owing to her alleged favouritism in the railway budget towards poll-bound Bengal. Also,  the Congress wash-out in Bihar assembly elections in 2010 ( only six seats) made the party understand the importance of effective coalition at the state level to help it shine at the national level.

The surveys carried out in Bengal indicate, Mamata with her `I-don't-care' attitude, has improved her ratings though many harbour reservations over how many of the projects announced by her would materialise. Aware that the Trinamool chief has been on a ‘image makeover exercise’, the CPI(M) has begun to imbibe youth in the ranks and brought in new faces in 149 seats, the youngest being Satadal Ghosh, 25, an SFI leader pursuing post-graduation in Economics.  

According to leaks in Trinamool’s list of candidates, there are a host of former IAS and IPS officers, singers and actors besides social activists who are likely to contest. Whether all these new faces will really herald a new era in Bengal is the moot point.

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