As the international community remains glued to the spiraling unrest in Middle East, the fragrance of jasmine is on the verge of dethroning one of the longest serving Communist regimes anywhere on earth.
The Indian province of West Bengal has been an invincible fortress of the Communist Party for the last three decades.
Termed as the left bastion of India, this province has empowered the Communists to become the lifeline of several ragtag coalition governments that ruled India intermittently. And yet at the end of the day they are struggling to retain any worthwhile influence in this part of the globe afflicted with rising inequalities, poverty and hunger.
This fall from grace is attributed by political analysts to the ruthless suppression of democratic aspirations and illegal application of muscle power by the Left regime for a better part of their reign.
Indeed it has been a genuine concern for the masses and a reader of this author’s previous article on Libyan conflict did not miss the opportunity to make an oblique reference regarding Communist atrocity. Unfortunately, there is no denying the gory fact that the province which earned the epithet of India’s cultural capital due to its affinity to intellectualism has turned into a virtual fiefdom of a pugnacious organization apparently positioning itself as a bell-wether of the proletariat.
In reality however, the Indian Communists having embraced neo-liberal agendas wasted no time in effectively transmogrifying its role into patronage and benefit disbursal.
This sudden change of image has inevitably dented the pro-poor façade and luster of the Marxist party while corroding its vital class base in the process.
Alarmingly, the province has fragmented into innumerable pockets of influence in the grassroots controlled by local apparatchiks.
These self appointed satraps have spread their reign of terror under the very nose of the disarrayed leadership. The matter has reached such an alarming stage that even a close political aide of the provincial Chief Minister who generally doubles up as his election agent does not hesitate to tread into activities that are by definition unlawful.
Intriguingly, the formidable trade union wings as well as the sister organizations are often hijacked by infamous individuals with little or no ideological mooring. They remain completely engrossed in wheeling and dealing for personal gain throughout the season.
These self-seekers are in fact presently entrenched in influential positions of the Marxist dispensation at various levels. Being accused of betraying the trust of the peasantry, the left forces are confronting a virtual route in an overwhelmingly left liberal stronghold despite the fact that they have effectively throttled the growth of any viable political alternative for almost two decades.
The barrage of discontentment has burst into a flash flood of popular fury waiting to flush the regimented political organization into oblivion. The Marxists have presided over a systematic decline in all spheres of life in their overzealous bid to promote party loyalty.
Successive studies have carefully documented the rapid slide in social and economic index. From maintaining law and order to providing the basic necessities of food, shelter and clothing; from industries to education – West Bengal is limping alongside the tail-enders. The unending saga of treachery, terror and despotism is written all over in this province of the Indian republic.
This palpable decay has resulted in the flight of capital and industries, stagnation in the agrarian economy, tattering infrastructure gasping for life and a fiscal degradation of worst nature. As the devastated province eagerly pray for a magical and divine intervention to revive its sagging fortune, the political opposition has offered an orderly channel for the suppressed and oppressed citizens to vent their anger democratically.
While millions of people including intelligentsia who were once active sympathizers of the Marxist Communist government take advantage of this unique platform, a resonant slogan of “change” is reverberating in the atmosphere. Indeed there has been a collective fatigue among the people of this beleaguered province from decades of uninterrupted Communist rule and they are desperate to wriggle out of this authoritarian syndrome of “come what may the Communist party must stay in power in West Bengal”.
This attitude has in fact led to the cynical disregard for liberty, rights and traditions with the party apparatus continuously emphasizing on the necessity to justify all means that lead to the fruits of power. And only power can provide the flag bearers of the subaltern class to sit on assets worth millions of rupees while their core constituency struggle day and night to survive on paltry income.
Come April 18, the first voting day of a six phase election, the electorate of West Bengal will give a hammer-blow to the hammer and sickle party for having exploited their sentiments for so long. But it would be a bit amateurish to even presume that the ruling party would surrender power without a fight. They are already working overtime to regain their lost support base.
With Psephologists predicting a close 43% vote share for the ruling left coalition as against the 44% drifting into opposition kitty, any complacency on the part of opposition might provide a level playing field for the Communist party.
One must not underestimate the extra ordinary skill of the regimented Communist structure in organizing en masse voting especially in the rural hinterland. Given their additional expertise in electoral malpractices, lowering the guard will only help them bridge the narrow gap significantly.
However, India’s first past the post electoral system will see the opposition sailing through even with a negative index of opposition unity unless there is a major internal sabotage. It is only a matter of time before the century old red brick edifice called “Writers Building” situated in the heart of West Bengal’s capital Kolkata host the province’s first female Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The real challenge for the shadow Chief Minister who has been tasked with reviving the dwindling fortune of Indian Railways however starts thereafter. She will be scrutinized at every step of her journey towards restoring Bengal’s lost glory and reviving a State whose outstanding liability runs into billions of rupees, roughly equivalent to 43% of the GDP.