NEW DELHI (TIP): It has been tumultuous last few weeks in West Bengal. Streets of Kolkata, which only two years ago witnessed one of the longest victory marches, is now filled with protest and anger. Three weeks ago it was over the alleged police custody death of SFI activist Sudipto Gupta, and now the collective anger over chit fund scam spreading across the state like wildfire poses the biggest challenge to Mamata Banerjee’s government. For the CPM, the principal Left party that led the four-party coalition for 34 years, the last one month has been godsend. The party is rejoicing the urban anger against the Mamata government. Sudipto’s death, CPM thought, would alienate the urban middle class from the state government.
In chit fund scam, Left parties see a far more potent weapon against the Trinamool government. The sheer spread of chit fund victims in all walks of life could make the CPM, which is steeped in class ideology, wait for the kill. An angry Congress, Trinamool’s ally not too long ago, adds to the CPM’s hope. For the Left, Trinamool without Congress as its electoral partner is less intimidating. A senior CPM leader well versed with the ground reality agrees the party has enough to put Banerjee on the mat. But he also says what is coming out in the public is too urbancentric. “The real battle in Bengal would be fought in the rural areas.
Trinamool is still holding the fort very well in rural areas,” he says, adding till equations change in the hinterland, Banerjee would continue to have an upper hand. The CPM leader also says violence that often settles issues in rural Bengal is still being dictated by the Trinamool. “We are at the receiving end. At the slightest pretext Trinamool attacks CPM cadre and office,” he says. The larger worry for the Left is the manner in which Trinamool has wrested control over block-bankthana, the most powerful triad of rural life. A Trinamool MP, who does not wish to be named, admits chit fund scam would have its consequences. “We would not be unseated though. Already, it looks like an all-party scam.
Moreover, we would do everything to take action against errant party members.” He says Bengal has witnessed several chit fund scams through the decades. “The present case is the product of 24×7 television. We will weather it,” he says. He also says it would be wrong to dismiss his party’s control over rural base as handiwork of violence and repression. The MP says, without giving the specifics, a number of initiatives have been taken for farmers and rural employment. Also, in two years Banerjee’s government has done nothing to alienate the Muslim vote. In fact, the state government’s drive to recruit Muslims in the state police and other departments would pay dividend at the hustings. He admits the party would have to work hard to contain lumpen elements in the urban and semi-urban areas.