BENGAL CIVIC POLLS
By B Prasant
THE civic polls being held for 81 self-governing institutions in the cities and townships spread across Bengal are a political battle, as are all elections. The enemy of the people are standing by to wreak havoc and let slip the dogs of war. The masses must come forward to rip apart the gathering darkness of the storm cloud on the political scene in Bengal, re-elect the CPI(M) and the Left Front by big, emphatic margins, and ensure that the process of development and democratisation continue apace.
Thus said Bengal chief minister and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, while he was addressing a very crowded media conference at the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan at noon on 16 May.
There is a twin process of industrialisation and urbanisation in Bengal under Left Front governance. The process needs to be made faster. There is a continuing attempt to maintain a balance between urban and rural, between the townships and the cities, between the cities and the metropolis.
The Left Front has been engaged in this task from back in 1978 when much earlier to the concerned Constitutional proviso coming into force, the civic bodies and the Panchayats had been made into viable self-governing institutions. The Left Front is the founder of the implementational concept of local institutions and this has been a unique achievement in the country.
The Left Front has included such elements in the civic bodies like timely elections, citizens rights ensured, voting age brought down to 18 years, reservations set in place, putting in place the mayor-in-council, borough committees, and making them operative, along with the latest addition of a citizens’ charter in each municipality.
Critical of the Congress, Buddhadeb pointed out that the successive Congress-run central governments deprived the state of funds due. The Trinamul board at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) sat on its hands and spent funds on non-essential items of expense. The Left-run board of the KMC have been seen to go all out with pro-people development programme implemented in a balanced manner. He also pointed out that the union government gives back but 32 per cent of the tax it collects from the states. The demand of elevating this amount to at least 50 per cent has been ignored by the Congress-run central governments in succession. The state finance commission has been engaged in allowing 50 per cent of the plan budget to be spent at the local level.
Noting that it was always difficult to comment on the intransigent ways of the Trinamul Congress and its partners in the right and to the extreme Left, Buddhadeb pointed to the rainbow alliance with political fuel from forces of reaction abroad and said they must be defeated and defeated comprehensively. It was dangerous of the Trinamul Congress to speak of an impending communal violence to precede the civic polls.
The outfit is dangerous to the point that they would see a violent scenario overtaking the municipal elections – ‘violence, threats, and lies,’ comprise the slogan-mongering of the Trinamul Congress. Buddhadeb pooh-poohed the claim of the Trinamul Congress that there were no ‘Maoists’ in Bengal.
On the other hand he asserted that the outfit was engaged in preparing the ground for the left sectarians in Bengal In passing he also pointed to the internecine killings that had started to take place at Nandigram and surrounding areas amongst the assassins of the Trinamul Congress itself, and called upon everybody to maintain amity, through discussions when necessary.
Buddhadeb commented in this context that two recent developments were of an alarming nature. The RSS spokesperson has called upon to ensure that the Trinamuli leader becomes the Bengal chief minister. Secondly, clutches of people from the BJP have joined the Trinamul Congress but they have not given up their RSS memberships. The left sectarians had long back exposed their preference to see the Trinamuli chieftain as the next chief minister of Bengal.
It was imperative, concluded Buddhadeb, for the masses of the people especially the young to come forward, take part in the democratic process and ensure a big victory of the Left Front in the upcoming civic polls. The people have already realised the Left stood for progress, for development for amity and for democracy. In responding to queries Buddhadeb said, among other things that only the state government could bring forward the date of elections for the Vidhan Sabha polls.