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Losing grassroots to Trinamool

After the Left Front’s resounding victory in the West Bengal assembly elections of 2006, its precipitate decline in 2009 will be the subject of many a Ph D thesis in political science.

kolkata Updated: Aug 29, 2009 23:08 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee

After the Left Front’s resounding victory in the West Bengal assembly elections of 2006, its precipitate decline in 2009 will be the subject of many a Ph D thesis in political science.

The truth is that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is getting the taste of an anti-incumbency wave and erosion in its base after 32 years of deep-rooted domination in West Bengal. In droves, its workers are moving to the party that many thought had reached a dead end in 2004 — the Trinamool.

The exodus is taking place even in districts like South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, Howrah, Birbhum and Burdwan. Alarmed at this, CPI(M) State Secretary Biman Bose sent a circular to all district secretaries last month, asking them to check the “bourgeois influence” seeping into the rank and file, and stop people from leaving the party.

“We have to convince those who did not vote for us that only the Left represents the working class and protects its interests. Those who were misguided have to be brought back,” the circular said.

In Hooghly, grassroots level workers like Abhijit Banerjee, 42, still march to Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata with his followers to attend rallies but with a different flag in hand. He was a member of the CPI(M)’s Bhadreswar local committee for more than a decade before joining the Congress last week.

This trend is stronger in two districts to the west of Kolkata — East Midnapore, in which the troubled Nandigram lies — and West Midnapore, where Maoists are carrying out guerrilla war to “liberate” 1,500-odd villages.

At Khejuri, the CPI(M) stronghold adjacent to Nandigram, it is hard to spot a man carrying the red flag. “Our men had to leave under pressure from the Trinamool Congress. It has unleashed a reign of terror,” alleged CPI(M) East Midnapore District Committee Member Ashok Guria, 62.

In Lalgarh, those who find their names on Maoist death lists try to buy safety by proclaiming in public that they would no longer work for the CPI(M).

Some go to the extent of advertising their changed political status in local newspapers.

The comparatively underdeveloped Birbhum district has seen more than 60,000 Left supporters joining the Trinamool in recent months.

However, former Naxalite leader Azizul Haque feels that the rush for change is nothing but a “revivalist movement to wipe out the social democrats with the aid of capitalist forces”.

All said and done, the Trinamool is in the ascendant. “The picture is the same in all districts. They want to join hands with us,” said Trinamool Youth Congress general secretary Ranjit De, 40.

With inputs from Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, Surojit Ghosh Hazra and Mohammad Asif