Opinion that matters
Bengal is poised for watershed polls. It’s advantage Mamata this time, though voters feel it is by default. Anirban Choudhury and Kamayani Singh report.kolkata Updated: Apr 01, 2011 17:56 IST
Change comes with a price and Bengal is willing to pay the price, but with riders. People approve of the change, but a majority feels there will be no change in governance if the Trinamool Congress comes to power. But what happened suddenly that a party with a strength of 35 MLAs in a house of 294 members in the assembly, out of the blue, has come so close to snatching power from a strong communist regime for three decades? The issues are many, the complaints against the Left Front too many.
Yet it was this government which gave power to the farmers, distributed land among them and promised a stable future to the people. The last five years changed things for the Left leaders drastically. Mamata Banerjee rose like a phoenix and usurped the Left’s dominance in areas it held strongly for years. She rode on the wave of discontent and became the champion of farmers, minorities and the jobless.
What were the factors? Is West Bengal ready for the government by the Trinamool Congress? Where did the Left Front fail? Who wins in the tussle between Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Mamata Banerjee? Will the Maoist insurgency end? Will jobs come to Bengal? An extensive and exclusive survey by HT-MaRS across seven districts of West Bengal and with more than 5, 000 respondents tries to find out the answers.
During her four stints as union minister, Mamata Banerjee was mostly spending her time in West Bengal, playing the role of an opposition leader.
This led to scepticism over her performance as a future chief minister. Perhaps that is why 65.5% of the people of Kolkata, her traditional voter base, still believe that her government will not be better than the current one and she would come to power by default.
Even the young voters, 50.5% of them, feel the same way and 32.7% of them prefer the Left Front government against the 28.4% who choose the TMC. People do not expect much from her as 34.6% overall feel there will be no change in governance if she comes to power.
But the frustration over Left rule for more than three decades has gone in her favour.
A government that came to power on popular choice 34 years ago may have run its course. The Left Front government has failed to create jobs, keep corruption in check, curb the spread of Naxalism and maintain law and order. And it is paying the price for these failures now.
The survey results show that people of West Bengal are leaning towards Mamata not because they have faith in her leadership and her ability to pull the state out of decay. It is because people want to see a change. The people of West Bengal are desperate for a change.
The survey shows that more respondents want to see either the Congress or TMC in power than see the Left Front in power. However, more than half of West Bengal voters across all age groups also feel that people would vote for Mamata because any government will be better than the Left Front government.
Irrespective of whether Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool make history, the upcoming election is going to be a landmark one for West Bengal.
The research agency MaRS conducted during February among 5,000 respondents, spread across seven districts. The idea was to gauge the mood of the voters on issues that matter the most. Special emphasis was given to understand the minds of the first time voters and the youth. We chose the two 24 Parganas districts, North and South, to understand the two places, which have turned green after remaining red strongholds for ages. West Midnapore was selected for its notoriety as the hot spot of Maoist activity. In South Bengal, Burdwan became our choice because it still remains a left stronghold. In North Bengal, Malda was selected as an example of a Congress bastion and Darjeeling be came the automatic choice to understand a region troubled by separatist movement.
It’s the rot in the leadership and the decay at grassroots level that have been the weak points for the Left this election. The Left Front’s governance, in comparative terms, had never been an issue for the people of West Bengal. The stability factor had sustained it all these years and still it provides the comfort zone for many. Due to this factor, a huge 30.8% still repose faith in it compared to the other indicators of governance.
But if people still want a change, it’s perhaps a change of the people who are behind the government. Voters in the age group 18-25 (about 37% of the total) too, it seems, are fed up with the “lumpen elements”. Among five indicators of the worst failures of Left Front, corruption is a factor. When Bhattacharjee says in all public meetings “we have to change, we have to rectify”, he hints at the hatred of the people towards a section of his party’s leaders and workers.