Many CPM leaders at the grassroots are joining BJP.
Diminishing organisational structure, exodus of cadre, lack of new generation leadership and ideas have led to a drastic downfall of the CPM in Bengal that ruled the eastern state for almost 34 years.
The CPM, which once boasted of having a strong organisational structure and presence in almost all block and panchayat levels across almost all districts of Bengal, is now a shadow of its former self, with several of its leadership from the districts and block levels deserting the party to either join the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and most recently the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Several young CPM workers, who once campaigned rigorously for the party, have decided to leave it for greener pastures, saying that the Left has “lost credibility” and “acceptability” among the Bengali population. Youths have also alleged that the CPM did not give young generation leaders the chance to flourish within the party. The Left in Bengal has leaders who are mostly in the 60-80 age bracket.
Somnath Roy, a 32-year-old politician from Kolkata, who once supported and fought election for the CPM in his college days, decided to leave the party in 2016 as, according to him, the party could not provide any new ideas and platforms for new generation leaders. Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, he said, “It seemed that the CPM had lost interest in Bengal after they lost the 2011 Assembly elections in the state to the TMC. There were no new ideas; senior leaders lacked energy and it seemed like they had enough of Bengal. And as a young leader, I had been left fending for myself. Why should one continue with a party that seems to have lost interest in Bengal’s politics?”
The situation is the same in many districts, where college, university and bloc level leaders, who once formed the core structure of the party, suddenly felt like they had been orphaned. For instance, in districts like North 24 Parganas, Birbhum, and even in tribal districts (which once formed the core voters’ base of the CPM) like Purulia, Midnapore and Jhargram, very recently, there has been a huge movement of grassroots level CPM leaders to the newly growing Opposition party, the BJP. Bibhash Maity (name changed), earlier a district level leader from Paschim Midnapore, who recently joined the BJP, told The Sunday Guardian, “I had been with the CPM for almost 30 years, but since the party could now do nothing for the people of Bengal, I decided to join the BJP. The BJP is the only alternative to the people of Bengal. And it is not only me, in our district, for certain I know of at least 1,000 people who left the Left party to join the BJP. The Left has lost its glory here.”
Even some heavyweight CPM leaders deserted it soon after the party lost in Bengal in 2011. Lakshman Seth, CPM stalwart and an “uncrowned king” from Midnapore district, who is believed to have had immense influence in the area, joined the BJP in 2016, causing a huge loss to the CPM. However, Fuad Halim, senior leader from the CPM, told The Sunday Guardian that the movement of people from the CPM to other parties, including the BJP, is because the TMC government has unleashed maximum violence and false cases against CPM leaders. “Today in Bengal, the Left parties have been most affected, which is why people who once supported the Left are looking elsewhere since no one wants to be attacked or face false cases being registered against them. They are looking at the BJP for shelter as they think that since the party is in power at the Centre, they will be able to provide shelter to them. Now, as a party we cannot resort to violence like the TMC; so we are dealing with such issues politically,” Halim said.
The vote share of the Left parties has also been on the decline for the last seven years. In 2011 Assembly elections, the CPM lost its 34-year-rule in Bengal to the TMC. That year, the CPM had secured a vote share of 29.6% and just 40 seats against 176 seats which they had won in 2006 in the 294 seats Assembly. Ever since then, the vote share and the number of seats have been on the downward slope. In the 2016 Assembly elections, the CPM could only manage to get 26 seats with a vote share of just 19.8%. Even in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the CPM secured just 22% vote share.