Opinion

Didi’s panchayati raj

Ranabir Ray Choudhury | Updated on July 31, 2013

Left legacy working in Mamata’s favour?

The Trinamool Congress has established its dominance in West Bengal’s rural areas.

More so than in any other form of governance system, in a parliamentary democracy the people are supreme. In the recently-held panchayat elections in West Bengal — compared with the results of the 2008 panchayat polls — the Trinamool Congress has established its dominance in the State’s rural areas.

On the face of it, it can therefore be concluded that people’s support for Mamata Banerjee’s party has increased manifold.

Extrapolating the panchayat results for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, reports suggest that the future is nothing but dark for the Left and the Congress. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Trinamool won 19 seats.

If the pattern of votes cast in the panchayat elections is any indication, the tally could go up to more than 30 next year.

Apart from the impact such a result could have on Government formation at the Centre, in West Bengal the dominance of Trinamool would be established beyond a shadow of doubt.

This is perhaps why both the Left and the Congress — the former more than the latter — are worried about the future.

It is not always that a party as organised as the CPI(M) forecasts poor election results.

But the situation is so serious for the party at this juncture that a Central Committee leader has been quoted as saying that, as far as the central part of West Bengal is concerned, in view of the Trinamool’s sweep in all the zilla parishads, “we are wary of losing a good number of Lok Sabha seats.”

The CPI(M) has 15 seats from West Bengal in the present Lok Sabha; in the next House the number may be restricted to a single digit.

Urban vs rural

And yet there are indications that support for Trinamool has been dented — at least in urban areas such as Kolkata and its neighbourhood — if one is to go by the results of by-elections to both the Lok Sabha and the State Assembly.

Clearly, the panchayat poll results have established beyond doubt that there is no uncertainty in the rural support for Mamata Banerjee, thus exposing a growing divide in support for the Trinamool between the urban and rural areas.

Here one is reminded of the basic strategy of the CPI(M) during its long rule over West Bengal, of strengthening its hold over the rural areas even at the expense of urban areas such as Kolkata, from where its candidates failed to elicit a successful electoral response.

Consolidation path

The Trinamool, therefore, is on the right path as far as “consolidation” of its power base in the State is concerned. The question may, however, be asked: has the Mamata Banerjee Government done anything concrete or substantial to justify the response of the rural electorate during the past two years apart from doling out free rice in the Jangalmahal area and ensuring jobs for the youths?

If not, then why has the party been favoured by the people?

The answer could be a very simple one, but one which is damning for the CPI(M).

The panchayat is the most important administrative unit for rural people at the grass-root level, the system (of which the unit was the lowest rung) being in fact totally controlled by the CPI(M) since the late eighties.

This is the first panchayat election after 2011 and one might suggest that, despite a number of problems such as the collapse of Saradha, the people in general were not prepared to cast their votes for CPI(M) candidates because of the baggage of memories regarding Left rule.

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Published on July 31, 2013
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