iconimg Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times
Basirhat/Minakhan/Kolkata, May 12, 2014
The walls of the CPI(M) state headquarters in Alimuddin Street were last painted probably before Perestroika took place in the Soviet Union. A walk around the dull rooms shows mostly old timers, busy working or watching TV.

The pale state of the Kremlin of Kolkata perhaps epitomizes the Left’s situation in West Bengal in 2014. Starting from 2009 Lok Sabha polls, where it won only 16 seats, there has been a steady decline in Left’s political hold. Even in the last panchayat polls, the Trinamool Congress won 13 of the 17 districts while the Left got just 2 zila parishads.

Also, a surging BJP is trying to gobble up the opposition space in West Bengal. “There is a clear Trinamool-BJP nexus. The BJP’s campaign tries to push the Muslim vote towards the Trinamool and away from the Left. The BJP knows that the Trinamool can support them if the need arises,” said Nilotpal Basu, CPI(M) central committee member.

The Left knows that a further decline in support base will allow Mamata Banerjee getting a grip over the alternative front too.

The communists have also lost hold in the crucial rural Bengal. In Akharpur village near Bangladesh border, villagers say it’s a tough choice between the Left and the Trinamool.

“We have to think who is capable of giving us protection and development. We are concerned about our basic needs like drinking water and roads,” said Asiya Biwi of Minakhan.

The Left, which has fielded 12 Muslim candidates this time, is also desperately trying to woo back its Muslim vote bank -- 32% of the state’s electorate.

There seems to be little hope for the Left with complaints of large-scale rigging in Trinamool-dominated areas and attacks on Left supporters. “The CPI(M) cadre are demoralized as it can only project tired and rejected leaders,” says Saugata Roy, Trinamool candidate from Dum Dum.