Communists in West Bengal elections: A review

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There was a year in West Bengal’s electoral history called 1977 when the clock turned dramatically in favour of the Communists. The Congress party which had ruled West Bengal for 27 years was convincingly defeated. The Communist Party grew from two representatives in the West Bengal legislative assembly of 1952 to a landslide victory. Riding on the wave of post-emergency era and anti-incumbency sentiments post-Bangladesh-war-refugee crises, the CPI (M) alone won 178 seats out of the 224 seats it contested in the 1977 Bengal Assembly elections. For seven continuous assembly elections after that, West Bengal repeatedly voted Communists to victory.

Rightly claimed Communist’s mouthpiece People’s Democracy, “In world history, there is not a single instance of a party or a front securing a mandate from the people to rule for another five years after having been in power continuously for 33 years. Forming such a government with an overwhelming support of the people is hitherto unheard of.”

The government led by Jyoti Basu brought major breakthrough in agriculture and allied sectors in Bengal by implementing land reform measures and introduction of the three-tier Panchayati Raj system. West Bengal created a record in distribution of surplus land. Agricultural production witnessed upward swing and literacy rate jumped to as much as 78 percent by 2011. The percentage of people living below the poverty line came down to less than 26 from 52 in 1978.

Industrial growth and urbanisation remained a concern but the sixth Left Front government emphasised on the rapid growth of information technology. Today, amny of the IT MNCs like IBM, Computer Associates, Wipro, TCS, Cognizant Technology and PWC have set up units in the state. The government also expanded the agri-business sector in a significant way.

These were the reasons why even in the 2006 assembly elections the Left Front secured more than 80% of seats and until 2009 won every election at all levels.

But things once again moved backward for communists. Post Singur and Nandigram Mamata Banerjee, though hardly a better option (depending upon her work as a Railway Minister), has made significant inroads. At least she has been successful pursuing Bengal’s voters that they need to vote for a change.

Communists’ turn might very well be over this time. Election predictions say it. Voters have said it, at least Mamata’s voters have definitely spoken of change. Experts have also said it. Now only results need to confirm if a 2006 miracle or a doomsday awaits the Communists.



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