May 7, 2009

Left’s dominance continues in Bardhaman

Raktima Bose,
The Hindu

People say CPI(M) has brought prosperity and jobs to the district

KOLKATA:Bardhaman has been a Left citadel since the early 1970s when West Bengal voted the Left Front to power. The district, with its three Lok Sabha constituencies (after delimitation) — Asansol, Bardhaman Purba (SC) and Bardhaman-Durgapur — goes to the polls on May 7, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leadership is confident about contin uing its dominance.
“The people in the district have full faith in our party and its functioning. This is our greatest achievement so far,” says Amol Haldar, secretary of the CPI(M)’s district committee. The party won all the four seats in the district (before delimitation) in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2004, each commanding more than 50 per cent of the total votes.

Each constituency here has its own distinctive feature: Asansol constituency falls in the coal-belt, the Bardhaman-Durgapur constituency is an industrial area (especially steel) and the Bardhaman Purba (SC) constituency is largely agricultural.

“Living conditions have improved manifold following the CPI (M)’s coming to power. Previously the Congress-backed local landlords tormented us no end. We owe our prosperity today to the party,” says 83-year-old farmer Sheikh Ilahi Baksh from Shaktigarh village.

Mr. Baksh’s view has wide backing. People here say that the CPI(M)’s land reforms and efforts to modernise agricultural methods, allow most fields grow crops thrice a year, against the earlier single crop.

There is, however, a feeling among grassroots level CPI(M) supporters that there might be some erosion in the party’s vote-share among the minority population due to the Opposition’s negative campaign about the findings of the Sachar Committee Report.

No alternative

“We cannot stop that from happening. Still, we believe there is no alternative to the CPI(M) in this region,” says Ghulam Hossein of Shaktigarh village. The opinion is not very different in the other two constituencies. Anath Saran Raj of Anandapur village under the Asansol constituency, says: “The CPI(M) has given us an identity, carried out numerous development projects and has brought new industries and generated jobs for our youths. What else can we expect?”

The opposition Congress and Trinamool Congress, however, are unwilling to concede that development is the reason for the CPI(M)’s dominance. “The CPI(M) has unleashed a reign of terror in the district. People cannot come out and vote independently as they are threatened if they vote against them. Had there been a free and fair election here, the CPI(M) would have lost its grip long back,” alleges Moloy Ghatak, Trinamool Congress candidate from the Asansol constituency.

“They have no principle, all they can do is shout and blame. We will win and there is no doubt in it,” says Mr. Haldar.

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