ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Outcome Wide Open

West Bengal Election

Although the media has been enthusiastically predicting the ouster of the Left Front in the assembly elections in West Bengal, the outcome, in reality, is still uncertain. While Mamata Banerjee may have escaped being tarred by the Tehelka episode, with her resignation further enhancing her image, the sudden shifts in the anti-LF coalitions may have been a gain for the LF. However, the CPI(M)'s limited parliamentarism and loss of vision have meant that many voters irrespective of class or ideology would like nothing better than to see the exit of LF in the state.

The leading lights of the three big-gest commercial newspapers in West Bengal are in a tearing hurry to get rid of the Left Front (LF) government in the state. Daily submissions (and omissions) showing the ‘incompetence’, ‘venality’ and much else of the present government and the bright future awaiting under Mamata Banerjee’s dispensation – which is sometimes redescribed as “anything is better than what we’ve got” – do not seem to satiate their appetite for change. These newspaper houses seem to be plunging directly into political activism. Aveek Sarkar, the owner-editor of the Ananda Bazaar Patrika, is reported to have participated in the electoral negotiations between Banerjee and Sonia Gandhi’s emissary, Kamal Nath. The editor of Bartaman is seen often enough as the advisor and guide to Banerjee during her frequently explosive public performances and tours. The Statesman appears to have been turned into a prolix leaflet for slaying the enemies of Banerjee, Vajpayee and, not to mention of course, the Tatas. A daily ration of these newspapers (and the ‘sarkari’ TV and radio) would lead one to believe that West Bengal is about to be rid of the LF government, come what may. But the reality is that the outcome of the assembly elections is still very uncertain, although the position of the LF is improving somewhat on the eve of the polls, due to the sudden shifts in the anti-LF coalitions after Banerjee’s departure from the NDA.

A great deal of speculation has gone into the reasons for Banerjee’s resignation from the union cabinet. Two reasons have emerged from these speculations. The first concerns the vote shares of the various parties; the second, more speculative, concerns Banerjee’s evaluation of the political impact of Hindutva (especially on the nearly quarter of the West Bengal population which is Muslim), the adverse economic impact of the reforms on workers, peasants, small businesses, pensioners and other people dependent on small savings, etc, and the Tehelka expose.

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