Elections tell a New Story
During the months of April and May this year, India went through elections in three major states, namely West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and in Assam and Pondicherry. The CPI (M) (Communist Party of India – Marxist) was in power in Bengal for the past 34 years and history was thus made when Trinamool Congress, a breakaway faction of the Congress party formed only 13 years ago, led by a former school teacher and union Railways minister, Mamata Banerjee, swept to power with the help of the Congress party, bagging 184 of the total 294 seats; Congress won 42 seats while the Left Front won only 62.
The elections in Tamil Nadu led to a massive victory of AIADMK, led by a former film acress, J. Jayalalitha (called Amma by her supporters) defeating the DMK which had been in power since the 2006 elections. It won 202 of the 234 constituencies while the DMK won only 31 and Congress five seats.
The Congress-led UDF (United Democratic Front) narrowly defeated the LDF (Left Democratic Front) which represented the communist parties, and was in power under the leadership of CM V.S. Achuthanandan. It won 72 seats in a house of 140. The communists won 68.
2011 thus proved to be a bad year for the communists as they lost two major states, particularly West Bengal. CPI-M’s defeat in Bengal, however, was a foregone conclusion as it had lost miserably in the 2009 elections..
Lots of reasons can be given to explain CPI-M’s defeat but its downfall started from Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh when it was seen by the masses as exploiting the poor and defending the industrialists, like Tata, who was interested in setting-up an auto plant in Bengal. Thousands were displaced and many were killed as a result of police firing in the ensuing violence. The Trinamool chief took up the peoples’ cause and the government backed out and Tata withdrew from the State and went instead to Gujraat.
The Muslims who constitute 25% of Bengal’s electorate, overwhelmingly voted for the opposition which proved to be a major set-back for the communists. They had been traditionally CPI-M supporters but got disillusioned by the killing of Muslims by the State government in certain instances (particularly Rizwanur’s killing).
The people eventually also got tired of corruption in West Bengal which led to the downfall of CM M. Karunanidhi’s DMK in Tamil Nadu who supposedly represented the downtrodden Dravidians but his family became a billionaire. His dalit minister in the union cabinet, A Raja, is presently under arrest and is accused of being the master-mind in the 2-G scam. According to one estimate, the scam resulted in a loss of around 40 billion dollars to India.
The irony is that Jayalalitha, herself a Brahmin but claiming to represent the dalits, is no less corrupt and was accused of indulging in massive corruption when she was the chief minister.
The people in Tamil Nadu did not have any alternative. The Congress which once ruled the state after independence has lost its support as it is still being regarded as a party of the northerners in this state located at the tip of India and the communists were virtually non-existent here until now when they secured 20 seats.
This is unlike Kerala where the communists are a force to reckon with. However, the incumbency factor and the sex and corruption related scandals eventually caught up with the Left government and it lost its majority to the Congress which ironically allies with the Indian Union Muslim League.
One now only wonders if the new governments in these three Indian states will bring about any miracle in the lives of the poor. The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court and a member of the Washington, DC Bar. He has been writing for various publications for more than 20 years and has authored several books.