A CPM campaign rally in Burdwan. (Krishna Das)
Sept. 19: For decades, Burdwan produced CPM leaders who dominated Bengal politics.
But the former red bastion is now crumbling under a Trinamul onslaught, prompting many to doubt if the CPM would be able to retain its grip on the Burdwan municipality that the Left party has held for 30 uninterrupted years.
The questions over the CPM’s chances in Saturday’s municipal elections is all the more significant as the polls come on the back of Trinamul’s roaring panchayat election success in the district. The ruling party has bagged 63 of the 75 zilla parishad seats.
“We are sure of forming the Burdwan municipality board. The CPM will be washed out. Look at our panchayat election results. That explains the trend,’’ said MLA Swapan Debnath, Trinamul’s Burdwan observer.
A “nervous” CPM has approached Raj Bhavan, with a delegation of MPs and MLAs from the district meeting governor M.K. Narayanan to tell him about Trinamul “terror, intimidation of party candidates and apprehension of rigging”.
“What do we do? Trinamul anarchy continues unabated. So we had no choice but to tell the governor. The chief minister won’t listen to us,” Burdwan CPM leader Bansagopal Chowdhury said.
In the face of the Trinamul onslaught, another question doing the rounds is about the virtual absence of CPM stalwarts in Burdwan.
Nirupam Sen, former industries minister, is hardly seen in the district after he lost to Trinamul in the 2011 Assembly elections, it was learnt.
Madan Ghosh, party central committee member and former district secretary, has been shifted to Alimuddin Street for taking up greater responsibilities.
A party that produced leaders such as Harekrishna Konar and Benoy Chowdhury from Burdwan no longer sires leaders of such stature.
“Where have our stalwarts gone? Nirupamda is hardly seen at party programmes here. Madanda does come at times but can’t devote much time. In short, we lack leaders who can have an impact on the electorate,” a CPM leader said.
With time, shopping malls and marriage reception halls have sprung up in Burdwan town. Lanes and by-lanes are well lit. Drinking water problems have minimised. Conservancy work, civic maintenance and road repairs have been satisfactory, a resident said.
“But civic issues do not matter much these days. It’s politics that dominates,” a CPM district committee member said.
“Trinamul is in power now and it is shamelessly using the administration and police,” he added.
Small-time writer and insurance agent Pankaj Pathak said: “Can the CPM come back in Burdwan with these old, worn-out faces? Where’s the leadership here? Pradip Tah and Gopal Gayen were killed.”
At a three-day state committee session in Alimuddin Street earlier this month, demands were made for a change in the Burdwan leadership and a shuffle in the composition of the district committee in the aftermath of the dismal panchayat poll showing.
Burdwan CPM secretary Amal Haldar said: “I have been the secretary since 2002. So I will not mind quitting. Let a fresh face take over. But will that guarantee better results?”
Public meetings by Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra and CPM central committee member Mohammad Salim attracted big crowds. But many party leaders alleged that Trinamul was not allowing the CPM to campaign freely.
The CPM’s campaign hoardings in eight to 10 wards were pulled down by Trinamul in the past few days, the Left alleged. The CPM’s election graffiti have been erased in several places. Candidates and voters are being intimidated, the CPM alleged.
“Police are in cahoots with Trinamul. How can we say for certain that the CPM will win?,” Haldar said.
A comment attributed to Trinamul MLA Debnath may sum up the political atmosphere in Burdwan town, a source said. “Swapanda bolechhen foul karo, offside karo kintu je bhabei hok goal dite hobe (Swapanda has said we have to win by hook or by crook),” the source said.