June 15, 2009

'People rejected the Third Front alternative' : Shyamal Chakrabarty

Kolkata, 15 June, 2009,Times of India

The CPI(M) is undergoing an organisational review after the reverses in the Lok Sabha polls. Shyamal Chakrabarty , member of party's West Bengal secretariat and central committee, talks to Saugata Roy :

Q:What are the major factors behind the Left debacle in the recent Lok Sabha polls in Bengal?

Chakrabarty: There are many factors, national and local, behind our poor show. People rejected the Third Front alternative. Even if it is a fact that we are very much into coalition politics, and have been running the Left Front government in West Bengal since 1977, voters didn't like the kind of coalition we floated after we withdrew support to the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre.

Q: CPI general secretary A B Bardhan felt that Left's withdrawing support from the UPA government over the Indo-US nuclear deal was not proper. What is your view?

Chakrabarty:Bardhan is a senior Left leader and CPI is a major constituent of the Left Front. We should consider his comment with due importance because the withdrawal decision was finally adopted in the meeting of four Left parties in Delhi.

Q:How do you account for the downslide in the CPI(M)'s vote share in West Bengal?

Chakrabarty: There are many local factors such as our stand on land acquisition, performance of state government, and also the state party. Voters didn't accept our land acquisition process. The acquisition in Singur should have come after adequate discussion at the grassroots. The Nandigram case is a little different though. The government dropped the acquisition plan there. It gave compensation to landowners and now we need to work on models beyond monetary compensation for land losers and those dependent on the land, ...of something that can generate a stable income. But i must say that the acquisition experience is not all that negative. The party's performance has improved in Purulia where the government acquired land for industry.

Q:While pursuing industry did the Left shift from its mainstay - the rural and urban poor? Does the Left Front government need to reposition itself among the downtrodden?

Chakrabarty:I don't know how far this is true. After all, people go by perception. One of my friends rang me the other day and said the Congress government works in the interests of big business but projects itself as a saviour of the poor. And our government has been working for the poor, but the campaign is that we have turned pro-rich. Borrowing Noam Chomsky, i would say that the media has succeeded in manufacturing this view.

Q:There is a rumour that heads might roll in the government and the party.

Chakrabarty:I don't see any reason why individuals should be held responsible for a failure when the decision was a collective one. It holds true for everyone Prakash Karat, Biman Basu, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Unlike other parties where individuals call the shots, the system in our party is different.

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