This is the first time in the history of Bengal in the post 1947 period when a communal political force like BJP is dreaming to win the throne of the state government. They made a significant advancement in the Lok Sabha election of 2019 when they won 18 seats out of 42. Their number of seats increased from 2 to 18 in the five years and vote share increased by 22.25 percent. Though there is a general saying that there is always a difference between Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, in a sharply politically compartmentalized society like that of West Bengal, any election can be a good indicator of ground reality.
It is noteworthy that BJP made its advancement in Bengal not mainly due to the communal factor. It does not mean that communal factor is absent, however, it plays comparatively lesser important role for BJP’s advancement. In the main, it is a total failure of conventional political parties, like Congress, CPIM or TMC which has provoked the voters to develop a strong inclination towards BJP.
TMC led by Mamta Banerjee came to power in 2011 inspiring much expectation. People were disgusted over CPIM’s rule of 34 years, although they implemented some of the important pro-people policies in the initial years. Panchayat system was developed and regular elections in Panchayats started to take place. Thus the feudal control over the rural socio-economic life was broken. Lands were distributed among the landless peasants, share-croppers got their rights. Spreading of education was given priority and the teachers and government employees started to get good salaries.
However, very soon as a result of these reforms a new section of rural middle-class came up and eventually captured the political domination in the village area. Panchayats came under the hegemony of the party. Similarly, in the urban areas too, the mass initiatives and spontaneous political activities of the people faced more and more organizational resistance, sometimes violently, by the party workers. All political activities outside the party initiative and planning were dubbed as anti-party and right-wing conspiracy. Any opposition of government policies and practical steps were portrayed as planned efforts to bring back the heydays of Congress thugs. As a result overall democratic atmosphere of the state came to face danger.
Since the middle of the 1990s a new development started taking place. Left Front government started to adopt the neo-liberal policies which they had strongly opposed when Rajiv Gandhi for the first time introduced them in 1987-89 period. Since the starting of the new millennium Left Front started to become more and more aggressive to introduce the neo-liberal changes which finally led them to commit massive blunders in Singur and Nadigram which paved the way for their departure from the seats of power . A closer look into the last years of Left Front’s rule may suggest that once again the question of democracy became the main area of political controversies and conflicts. So, one of the extremely popular slogans of Mamta at that time was “No to Partiocracy; we want Democracy!” [Dalotantranoy, ganotantra chai!]
The ten years rule of Trinamool Congress has left the people totally disillusioned about the party and its government. The grip of partiocracy has become even more pernicious. Wide-spread and rampant corruption in every field has become the norm of the day. A total failure in economic policies has led the people to frustration about the future of the growing generations. Moreover, extreme authoritarianism has given birth to a suffocative atmosphere in political arena. Democracy is facing even bigger challenges under TMC rule.
As a result BJP has made significant inroads in West Bengal. Bitter memories of LF rule are still living in the minds of the people. And the added advantage of BJP lies in the fact that the people of the state do not know the party well. Therefore, a popular sentiment has been growing among the Hindu toiling masses that BJP should be given a chance. “We have seen all the parties. Let us see what they do!”
In such a situation one important development is taking place in the state. In the first week of January a non-electoral political platform was formed to campaign against BJP/RSS under the name: “Bengal Against Fascist BJP-RSS”. This platform has campaigned throughout south-Bengal with the central slogan “No Vote to BJP” in a mass scale. Lakhs of posters are stuck on the walls, pamphlets are distributed, a number of conventions and public meetings are organized in all the districts, and finally a huge rally was organized by the platform on 10 March where 10-12 thousand people participated. Apart from our party, MKP and CPIML Liberation are the political groups which are taking part in this platform. There are many individuals and social organizations also taking part in this initiative. The campaign has gained sufficient currency and many intellectuals started to open their mouths against Fascist BJP after this campaign started.
On the other hand BJP’s rule under the leadership of Narendra Modi for last seven years has created panic among the Muslim population throughout the country. Their whole mobilization behind the movement against NPR/NRC/CAA made it crystal clear to everyone. A section of Muslim people has now reached to this opinion that they must be organized as Muslim community in a separate independent party. The growing popularity of All India Majlish-e-Ittehad-ulMuslimeen [AIMIM] under the leadership of Asaduddin Owaisi is a good indicator of this phenomenon. The English translation of the name of the party -All India Council for Unity of the Muslims — clearly shows the aim of the organization. In West Bengal a similar kind of initiative has been developed by a section of Heirs of Furfura Sharif, especially by Pirjada Abbash Siddique. Very recently a party was formed, named Indian Secular Front which eventually has become an important partner in Left Front-Congress-ISF alliance.
Although it is claimed that ISF is a front of as many as ten organizations including dalit and tribal organizations, however, it is already seen in case of AIMIM that using dalit and tribal cards is nothing but a tactical step for this organization to carefully avoid the Muslim tag. The tribal or dalit leaders have no significant role in the policy making or character making of the party. However, the process of forming ISF clearly shows that it is dominantly a Muslim organization whose interest is to organize the Muslims in religious line. This development in the state has provided a further impetus to BJP to carry forward its Political Hindutwa agenda. Moreover when CPIM and Congress went into an alliance with this organization, then it has earned some kind of political legitimacy in Bengal politics which in return help BJP to legitimize its religious politics breaking the apparent secular atmosphere in the state.
By the time a fierce and bitter debate has been cropped up among the leftist circles over the question of main enemy in the ensuing election. In the main the debate is taking place between CPIM and the radical lefts. Although all the parties which are known by the term “communist” have settled this question in their respective Party Congresses that at present situation BJP is the main enemy everywhere in the country, the CPIM state committee in Bengal has developed a clear mindset that unless and until TMC government is removed no struggle against BJP is possible, whereas the fact is in the electoral battle BJP is mainly challenged by TMC for obvious reasons. As a result of the debate CPIML [Liberation] came out from electoral understanding with CPIM and is fighting independently in 12 seats. Our party is fighting in 4 seats and has extended its support to the various Communist Revolutionary [CR] forces wherever they fight in the election.
Apart from these few seats, our party has given an open call to the people to defeat BJP and not to have any illusion on the other parties. Most of the CR organizations have taken similar stand which is paving the way to build joint political activities of the revolutionaries in coming future. Ultimately, as per our understanding, the Fascist advancement can be given actual challenge only by developing an anti-neoliberal, pro-people alternative development paradigm launched by an alternative political force which can only be formed by joint effort of all CR forces. Keeping BJP at bay from power can provide us important respite which will be helpful to develop the actual alternative to Fascism successfully.
With these long term and short term goals CPIML [Red Star] is taking part in the electoral battle. The party is directly fighting in four seats, out of which the Bhangar constituency, which obviously remains as the area of prime importance. TMC has failed to give a local candidate due to severe inner-party conflicts. However, more important factor for them to bring an unknown candidate from outside is that, all of their local leaders have lost credibility to stand in front of the people. Sitting MLA Rejjak Molla, an erstwhile minister in Left Front regime, is not even accepted within the party circle any more. Another strong man Arbul Islam who spear-headed TMC attack against Red Star and Land, Livelihood, Environment and Ecology Protection Committee at the time of Bhangar movement, has become mostly irrelevant as a result of their near-total defeat in Bhangar movement and subsequent local body election in 2018.
BJP has also given ticket to an unknown candidate. They do not have much expectation in this seat since the constituency is over-whelmingly dominated by Muslim population. However, CPIM-CONGRESS-ISF has nominated Pirjada Nausad Siddique, younger brother of Abbas Siddique who is definitely going to be a major factor. Our candidate Comrade Mirza Hassan is one of the Conveners of JJPBRC and is having very good popularity among the masses and practically the only Leftist candidate in Bhangar. Therefore, practically it is going to be a fight among three major candidates. BJP can be a dark horse if the overall communal tension reaches in an unprecedented level in the state.
Whether Com Mirza Hassan will win or not is obviously an important question before the left and democratic people; however, more important thing before the left-leaning people of West Bengal is whether the real leftist ideology, politics and morality will be able to survive in this time of overall decay of left, secular and democratic politics and at the time of Fascist surge. The electoral challenge taken by CPIML Red Star in particular and Communist Revolutionary forces in general is giving assurance to the people that the glorious red flag shall not die, in spite of whatever may happen in the election.
As far as the overall situation in the state is concerned we have seen that some factors are working in favour of BJP, while some other factors are working against them. The initial advancement of the party in post-lockdown time has been significantly slowed down due to many reasons. Huge price-hike of cooking gas, petrol etc has caused large level resentment among the masses. Secondly, more and more public sector unions are coming to the streets against government’s effort to privatize those institutions. After many decades Bank Employee Unions started to organize street protests where they are inviting social organizations for their support. Recently, during their three days strike State Bank Employees Union invited “Bengal Against Fascist BJP/RSS” forum in front of their main office in Dalhoise, Kolkata for solidarity. All these protests against BJP have become vibrant with the ongoing peasant movement. Peasant leaders started to visit and organize Maha Panchayats in all five poll-bound states. In Bengal also five Maha Panchayats took place including in places like Singur and Nandigram. However, absence of proper alternative political force against BJP is the main trump card in its hand