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Not forecasting total turnaround but it will be partial, says Buddha

Calcutta, April 2: Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is hoping for a “partial turnaround” in the CPM’s fortunes in the coming Lok Sabha polls even as a section of the beleaguered CPM is predicting that the party will significantly gain from the first-ever four-cornered contest in the state.

“So far as this election is concerned, I am not telling you that the party will stage a total turnaround, but it will be a partial turnaround. We will improve our show and that I can assure you,” Bhattacharjee told The Telegraph during an interview at the party headquarters on Alimuddin Street.

Although Bhattacharjee did not elaborate what he meant by a “partial turnaround”, his stress on improving the show means that the party is hopeful about a higher vote share.

This claim of a “partial turnaround” is significant as Left leaders have been claiming a turnaround in all the elections since the 2009 Lok Sabha polls when the alliance could win only 15 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats.

But the reality has been different. Since the 2008 panchayat polls, subsequent elections have seen an erosion in the Left’s support base. From an over 49.2 per cent vote share in the 2008 panchayat polls, it shrunk to 43 per cent in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections to 41 per cent in the Assembly polls to around 38 per cent in last year’s panchayat polls.

“By stressing that there will be a partial turnaround, Buddhada is taking a gamble as he will have to take the blame if there is a further erosion in the support base,” said a CPM insider.

According to a recent opinion poll conducted by ABP News and The Nielsen Company in March, the Left is expected to get around 31 per cent of the vote share while Trinamul is expected to get around 41 per cent of the polled votes.

Left leaders, both in public and private, have raised questions about the forecast because of several reasons, ranging from the electorate’s perceived disenchantment with the Trinamul regime to a division in votes because of the BJP factor in a four-cornered contest.

Bhattacharjee, however, was categorical that the four-cornered fight would not have any substantial impact on the outcome.

“In most constituencies, all over the state, the battle is between Trinamul and the Left. Therefore, division of votes will not be a major issue and we are not depending on that,” said the former chief minister.

Unlike the proponents of the vote-division theory in the party, Bhattacharjee steered clear of predicting any sudden surge in the BJP’s vote share in Bengal.

But he took care to explain the dangers of a Narendra Modi-led government, besides iterating the Left alternative.

Bhattacharjee also suggested that the interests of the RSS and the corporate sector were merging, speaking of a “combine”.

“Narendra Modi is a choice of the RSS and corporate combine. The RSS means Hindutva, one of the most retrograde ideas of our society as they represent religious fascism. And then there is this corporate lobby. This is a peculiar combination,” he said.

Bhattacharjee spoke on issues ranging from the mistakes made by the CPM to why US imperialism is a matter that still vexes the party.

During the 70-minute interview, Bhattacharjee, who will lead the party’s campaign for the Lok Sabha polls, made it clear that lack of industrialisation in Bengal since the change of guard would be his major poll plank.

The former chief minister, however, took care to explain that in the future — if the party comes back to power — the issue of land acquisition has to be dealt with carefully.

He was also categorical in admitting that the party had failed in uniting the poor. A section of the leadership alienated people because of their “unnecessary and unwanted interference in the social life of common people”, he said.

Bhattacharjee, who tried in vain to change the party’s policy of controlling education, said that the CPM’s pursuit of one language in primary sections caused damage.

“In education, we continued with the policy of one language in schools. It did not help us…. Finally, we realised it was absurd and introduced English,” Bhattacharjee said.