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'Left's poll debacle in Bengal was long awaited'

June 23, 2009 16:28 IST
A young Congress leader from West Bengal says while the Trinamool Congress-Congress party alliance in recent parliamentary election was able to dislodge the Left's stranglehold, the same result could have been achieved even earlier, had the opposition remained united in the state.

Samrat Topadar, a member of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee and a member of the Indian Youth Congress, who in United States on a month-long visit as part of the US State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program, said there had been no viable opposition in West Bengal in the past 32 years until the recent election and because of that the Left parties, led by the Communist Party of India-Marxists, have managed to win elections after elections.

Topadar alleged that combined with that factor were the violence and terror unleashed by the ruling party against whoever did not belong to their parties in every election, resulting in the marginalisation of the opposition.

"We have to admit that we are partly to be held responsible as well (for not being able to defeat the Left) because earlier we could not forge alliances with other opposition parties and stand as one strong and united opposition," Topadar told rediff.com.

"The split of popular votes always helped the Left, and combined with others factors like booth-capturing, violence and intimidation of voters, it led to their so called victories in elections from the parliamentary to panchayat polls year after year" Topadar said.

He said besides the alliance between TMC and Congress party, one of the major factors that led to the winning of so many seats by the opposition is people's utter frustration and disenchantment with the Left parties and their decades of misrule in West Bengal.

"You won't believe the level of anger and disappointment among people, especially the youth. A point came when people stopped even casting their votes because they felt it was pointless because the Left would somehow or the other capture power," Topadar said.

He said with this parliamentary election that has changed and people now feel that they have the power to bring real change in the state for its all round development.

Topadar, who visited Washington D.C, New York, Virginia, among other places and met with US Congressmen and Senators as part of the program, seemed pretty impressed with Rock the Vote whose mission is to engage and build the political power of young people to achieve progressive change in the country.

Rock the Vote uses music, popular culture and new technologies to engage and incite young people to register and vote in every election and gives young people the tools to identify, learn about, and take action on the issues that affect their lives, and leverage their power in the political process.

"I find that to be a pretty interesting idea. When I go back, I will discuss with my colleagues how to replicate that idea in the context of West Bengal so we can attract more people to cast their ballots and be instrumental for real change," Topadar said.

The month-long visit of the youth leaders' delegation, comprising a student union leader Kaun Bagang from Arunachal Pradesh, Angela Ralte, a social worker, and Rishu Kishor Vaidya of National Students' Union of India -- the student wing of the Congress Party, was led by Topadar.

Asked whether the honeymoon with TMC would last till the next parliamentary election, Topadar objected to the use of the word 'honeymoon.'

"This is an alliance and not a honeymoon as you are saying and this alliance would last because while TMC needs us in West Bengal, we need TMC's support at the national level," Topadar said, adding that TMC could not have won in West Bengal without the help and cooperation of the Congress party.

"But we are having some pain also (in terms of the alliance)" he said without elaborating in response to a question as to how comfortable the party is with the alliance post-election.

"Do not think that we have no base in West Bengal. While TMC captured South Bengal, we have pretty much won in North Bengal. TMC needs Congress and Congress needs TMC. It is in our mutual interest, but we have a common ground -- we all want end of this Communists' misrule as soon as possible," he said.

To a question if TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee was trying to prepare grounds for imposition of President's rule in the state as many have alleged, Topadar said Congress is certainly supporting the President's rule.

"I do not know how early will that happen, but Congress workers are fed up with the violence and misrule as there is no law and order in the state. There is growing support among people for such state emergency. I must say that CPI-M must go now and there is no doubt that in the next assembly election -- whenever that takes place -- the Left Front doubtless will disappear from the state," he said.

Suman Guha Mozumder