The Telegraph
Saturday , March 2 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Slide worry for Left before panchayat polls
- CPM blames haughtiness, weak organisation and lack of fresh faces for failure to arrest dip

Calcutta, March 1: The sharp drop in the Left’s vote share in the Assembly bypolls is the continuation of a slide that began since the 2008 panchayat elections, indicating that the combine has still not been able to set its house in order.

The Left has posted a victory in Nalhati, one of the three constituencies where bypolls were held, but the drop in its vote share in comparison with the 2011 Assembly elections is a cause for “worry” in the run-up to the panchayat elections, a CPM leader said.

The CPM has launched an offensive against the Mamata Banerjee government by holding meetings in the districts in the past five months. The meetings attracted big crowds, instilling among party faithfuls the hope of a gradual turnaround.

“But the bypoll results and the significant plunge in our vote share is worrisome, particularly when the panchayat elections are less than two months away,” the leader said.

Asked why the Left could not hold on to the support, however meagre, it had got in the 2011 Assembly elections, CPM state secretariat member Mohammad Salim said today: “After being voted out of power, many of our cadres switched to Trinamul. That has depleted our organisation to a certain extent. Moreover, we could not mobilise our men to come out in tens of thousands and cast votes in the Left’s favour.”

He said many party activists in the districts “failed to rise to the occasion”. “And there are fence sitters, too, who earlier used to vote for us but are not doing so now in the hope of getting benefits from the ruling establishment,” Salim added.

According to Salim, the CPM also has “image problems” that the leadership is trying to address through various organisational meetings.

“We are in rectification mode. We are trying to get rid of unnecessary flab. We are stressing on the need to get close to the people. But there are sections that still feel that the CPM has image problems… haughtiness,” Salim said.

The ground began to slip from under the Left’s feet in the 2008 panchayat elections. In that poll, which was held after the Singur and Nandigram land agitations, the Left lost as much as 50 per cent of the gram panchayats and four zilla parishads.

The social disconnect continued in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, when the Left’s tally went down sharply from 35 to 15 seats.

There wasn’t any change in the political scenario in the 2010 municipal elections, with the Left losing more than 50 of the 81 civic bodies that went to the polls.

The anti-Left swing in votes was the most pronounced in the 2011 Assembly polls that saw former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s exit from Writers’ Buildings.

“This pattern is continuing even after Mamata’s misgovernance. This points to the organisational shortcomings that we have to overcome. But that will take time,” a CPM state committee member said.

“Moreover, there are people who say, CPM again? We have to overcome this problem, too,” the leader added.

According to a section in the CPM, the party’s failure to produce a new crop of leaders has to be addressed.

Bhattacharjee was the “main speaker” in several recent rallies the districts in the past few months as the CPM still considers him its “face”.

A Calcutta district committee leader said Bhattacharjee’s “same body language and rhetoric” at the meetings were “not enough” to swing back votes to the Left and the need was to create a new crop of leaders alongside him.

“People are not finding anything new in his remarks. Some young leaders need to be by his side and be more visible. People are getting tired of old faces and old rhetoric,” a CPM leader said.

Karat jab

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat today led the Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha (procession) from Calcutta and to Durgapur.

Addressing party workers at Town Hall in Burdwan, Karat criticised the state government and said 88 farmers had committed suicide in Bengal in the past one year.