Friday, May 27, 2016

The Left in Bengal: An Obituary

It was supposed to be the alliance of opportunists that would make history - two forces that have been at battle (literally) for decades, coming together to stop an all-powerful common enemy. The Congress-Left alliance, much-derided because the parties were simultaneously fighting each other in Kerala, was supposed to take the state back from the TMC. In the end, not only did the TMC win with the largest majority in the history of the Assembly, the Left tasted the kiss of death from the Congress, being reduced to its lowest ever margin ever (while the Congress itself managed to improve a bit). Add to that, the BJP managed to win six seats, establishing that it was indeed a rising force in the state.

In many respects, this election could be called a Mamata Banerjee wave, as she asked voters to vote for her and disregard the party candidate, who would just be a puppet. That might sound terrible, but it's a fact that India's politics both in the states and at the Center has become increasingly Presidential, and the Congress-Left alliance's lack of a single leader made it much worse for them. Mamata won more seats than ever before, with several new candidates defeating incumbents from the Opposition. The Left has been absolutely annihilated in the state that it once rules for 34 years, the springboard of its national ambitions. The decision to make a hypocritical alliance with the Congress was the last nail in the coffin - while the Left's voters happily voted for Congress candidates, the opposite was not true, because the Congress' voters had suffered under the Left's militia's for decades, and no amount of loyalty to the Gandhi dynasty was going to erase that. That the Left could not see this shows just how much it has lost touch with the country (and the world at large).

Now that Mamata has a two-thirds majority in the Assembly, there is no doubt that she will work to entrench her party in every aspect of the state's life. After all, she learned it from the Left, and has outdone them in many respects. This victory cements Bengal's slow decline from India's premiere province to a backward jihadi factory because of the suicidal way in which the electorate voted for decades. But then again, the state did give the BJP six seats. That might seem small, but then the party went from 2 seats in the 80s to a full majority of 282 in 2014 in the Lok Sabha, so small victories are not be ignored. Perhaps the future will be different. But not the near future. 

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