Sunday, May 17, 2009

തെരഞ്ഞെടുപ്പില്‍ സംഭവിച്ചത്

ലോകസഭാ തെരഞ്ഞെടുപ്പ് അവലോകനം ചെയ്തുകൊണ്ട് ജയതി ഘോഷ് എഴുതിയ ലേഖനം പോസ്റ്റ് ചെയ്യുന്നു।

Farmers, Muslims had no faith left

By Jayati Ghosh

It is beyond doubt the general elections of 2009 have delivered a severe blow to the Left parties. Of course, it was always likely that the Left would come down from its historically high tally of 61 seats in the previous Lok Sabha elections, especially as these came overwhelmingly from only two states. But the extent of the decline in Left seats, to less than half the previous figure, nevertheless comes as a shock.

What is particularly disturbing is the performance in the two previous Left strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala. What explains this sharp deterioration?

This is a crucial question, since if the Left is to recover and grow again, as well as spread its message to other parts of the country, it is important to draw the right lessons from this defeat and to change strategy accordingly.

The lessons are likely to be different in the two states. Most people would agree that the Kerala state government is reasonably popular, and chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan certainly continues to command very high approval ratings. But the margins of victory and defeat have always been relatively small and the state has a history of consecutively shifting both Lok Sabha and Assembly victories across the two major fronts.

So even a small shift in vote percentage can cause very large shifts in the seats won or lost, and this is likely to have been the case in this election. Having said that, it is also likely that the widespread perceptions of factionalism within the main party in the Left Front, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), made people uneasy and harmed the front electorally.

The rather rigid attitude towards alliances with some smaller parties in Kerala before this particular election also did not help.

In West Bengal the picture is more disturbing. There is clear evidence of vote shifts against the ruling Left Front, and this message from the electorate cannot be ignored but must be addressed. The Left Front has ruled the state for more than three decades, providing not only stability but also many extremely positive measures for the improvement of conditions of life of ordinary people: not just the crucial land reforms that were the most extensive of any state government in the last 30 years, but the pioneering moves towards decentralisation and providing more powers to locally elected bodies.

However, in the past few years the state government of West Bengal, through its own actions or its inability to get its message across, has contributed to some loss of goodwill among the people. Three factors that have contributed to this and which must be recognised and addressed are:

The sense of alienation among the peasantry in the face of the events at Singur and Nandigram and the inability of the government to adequately justify its actions to the people or even to publicise its continuing land distribution programme;

The perceptions of discrimination among the Muslim community, even among those who have earlier been consistent Left supporters;

The feeling that the government has been more heavily influenced by the bureaucracy rather than responding to — and engaging with — the actual cadre of the parties, bright and highly committed people who have given their lives towards working for socialism and for the ideals of the Left.

To these negatives must be added some errors of omission, in terms of positive policy interventions that have not been sufficiently utilised or developed. The most important of these is the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which was brought about by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government largely because of insistent pressure from the Left at the national level.

It is worth noting that the states in which the parties of ruling state governments have been successful in this election are those in which the NREGA has been implemented extensively and with some enthusiasm: Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Orissa.

In West Bengal there has been much less success in NREGA implementation and this is clearly a necessary and high priority task for the Left Front government. Another critical area of public intervention that requires urgent attention is the Public Distribution System (PDS) for food, which needs to be revamped, extended and strengthened in the state.

While this election result is a major setback, it can also be turned into an opportunity for Left revival and expansion, not only in these two states but across the country.

The clear result in Tripura has been little noticed, but it speaks extremely well of the solid support and popularity of the Left Front government in that state.

In other states where the Left has won seats or got many votes, it reflects the long and committed struggles of the local cadre on issues that are fundamental to the core support of these parties: land, livelihood, conditions of living and social equality. If these features are strengthened, this adversity can be turned into a stimulus for positive transformation and future growth of the Left movement in India.

ഡെക്കാന്‍ ക്രോണിക്കിളിലും ഏഷ്യന്‍ ഏജിലും പ്രസിദ്ധീകരിച്ചതാണ് ഇത്।