Socialist Worker

India: Left Front facing possible election defeat

by Anindya Bhattacharyya
Published Tue 26 Apr 2011
Issue No. 2249

Voting started this month for elections in the Indian state of West Bengal.

It could spell the end for one of the region’s longest serving left wing governments.

West Bengal is India’s fourth largest state with a population of over 90 million.

The Left Front, an alliance of leftist parties, has ruled for over 30 years. It is led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M).

But polls suggest that the Left Front will be unseated by Mamata Banerjee, who heads the right wing Trinamool party. This could deliver a huge blow to the left in India and Asia.

Trinamool is very much Banerjee’s personal vehicle. It is currently allied to the centre-right Congress Party that controls India’s national government.

The Left Front’s potential defeat stems from the way neoliberal economic policies have affected India and West Bengal.

Its strongest support has historically come from the countryside.

In its heyday the Left Front government redistributed wealth from Kolkata, West Bengal’s capital city, to fund welfare programmes for the rural poor.

But in recent years the CPI(M) in West Bengal has been swept along by the neoliberal tide, offering deals to multinational companies.

This has brought the party into conflict with its rural base.

Tensions exploded in 2007 when armed police attacked villagers in Nandigram, protesting against being evicted to make way for a chemical factory. At least 14 were killed.

Incidents such as these have allowed Banerjee to pose as a friend of the poor.

But her victory could usher in further neoliberalism, poverty and misery for ordinary people.


Article information

International
Tue 26 Apr 2011, 17:53 BST
Issue No. 2249
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