Elec­tions tell a New Story

Southasia - - The last stop - By Anees Jil­lani

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.

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