Many in West Bengal see the current Lok Sabha poll as a mid-term referendum on the reformist policies Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, 64, has been pursuing.
Curiously, the CPM does not.
The Bhattacharjee agenda is not being highlighted at all in the CPI(M)’s poll campaign.
One of Bhattacharjee’s first steps as chief minister – which stamped his liberal, pro industry credentials – was persuading IT giant Wipro to set up a new campus in Kolkata. It is said that the first file he cleared after the Left Front won the 2001 assembly election, was the one providing 18 acres of land in the Salt Lake area to Wipro. But no reference to it is found in the CPI(M)’s poll publicity material.
The achievement lost its sheen after Bhattacharjee failed to persuade his own Housing Minister Gautam Deb to allot a second plot to Wipro at the price the company wanted. Deb insisted Wipro should pay the market rate.
At the start of his tenure Bhattacharjee had a goal he articulated often — he wanted West Bengal to account for 15 per cent of national IT revenues. Having come nowhere close to doing so, the government does not mention of it anymore.
All through his nine-year stint as Chief Minister, Bhattacharjee — along with his Industries Minister Nirupam Sen — proudly flaunted reports of various industry chambers like the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) whenever they had something favourable to say about West Bengal. None of those reports are referred to while the CPI(M) campaigns.
Bhattacharjee promised to curb the militant trade unionism the state had become infamous for in the later decades of the 20th century. To some extent, with a mixture of carrot and stick, he succeeded. But Left Front propaganda does not mention it, since it has been realised this does not go down well with its cadres.
“Since this is a national election our party has decided to concentrate on national issues,” said a senior CPI(M) leader. “The nuclear deal, the UPA’s foreign policy, inflation — these are the matters we are focusing on.”