Friday, June 4, 2010

CPI(M): Rout In Municipal Elections "Serious Matter"

Here is the Editorial from this week's People's Democracy explaining the Left Front's rout in the recent elections to 81 municipal bodies across West Bengal. The message: All is not lost; there's another 12 months to regain lost ground before the all-important Assembly election next year... 

IN the results of the elections to the 81 municipal bodies across the state of West Bengal held on May 30, 2010, the Left Front has won in only 18 municipalities. 

The Trinamul Congress has won 26, the Congress 7, the anti-Left alliance 4, while 23 are hung, 3 have resulted in a tie.  In whose favour these would be resolved will only be known in the future. 

In the finest traditions of democratic practice, the Left Front led by the CPI(M) has accepted the people’s verdict. The Left Front in West Bengal has declared that it shall make a proper assessment and review of these results to draw correct lessons for the future. 

There has been a massive media hype that these elections are a `semi-final’ for the so-called `final’ assembly elections in May, 2011. The politically conscious electorate in Bengal is discerning in the sense that it treats every election on the basis of its objective.

The Lok Sabha elections were to determine the government at the centre. The elections to the state assembly are to determine the government in the state. Likewise, the municipal and panchayat elections have their own objectives. Each election is, therefore, a different ballgame.

The Trinamul Congress has mounted a shrill campaign for the dismissal of the duly-elected state government and the holding of early elections.  This is not only patently undemocratic but completely irrational.

The total number of people eligible to vote in these municipal elections was 85,33,000 out of a total electorate in the state of 5,24,32,000, i.e., only 17 per cent of the total electorate. This makes up for less than 40 seats in an assembly of 294.

The rest of the 83 per cent constitutes the rural Bengal electorate or more than 250 assembly seats, which has predominantly determined the character of the government in the state in the past. Hence, it will be fallacious to conclude that the results of these municipal elections are a reflection of the state’s electorate as a whole. 

Nevertheless, it is a reflection of urban Bengal. To that extent, the Left Front is committed to undertake a serious introspection of these results. During the Lok Sabha polls in 2009, which saw a serious erosion in the Left vote, the Left Front had a lead in 525 of the 1766 municipal wards in the state or 29.73 per cent.

In these elections, the Left Front has won 603 out of 1791 municipal wards or 33.67 per cent.  Hence, the situation now shows, at best, a marginal improvement in the performance of the Left Front. 

Clearly, therefore, the setback suffered in the Lok Sabha elections has not been reversed but the downslide appears to have been partially arrested.

In the 2005 elections to the municipal bodies, the Left Front had won an unprecedented victory bagging 50 out of the 81 municipal bodies. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, however, it had led in only 19.  In these elections, it has won in only 18.

However, as noted earlier, the leadership of 26 municipal bodies will only be decided later.  The main reverses to the Left Front have come from Kolkata and its adjoining urban areas. North 24 Parganas district has 21 municipal bodies while Hooghly district has 12.

In 2005, the Left Front had won 26 of these 33 municipalities. This time Left Front has won only in 4 with a tie in 2 municipalities. This is a serious matter that needs to be properly reviewed in order to draw the correct lessons and apply the needed correctives. 

The CPI(M) and the Left Front are committed to undertake this task in right earnest. 

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