WHY IS THE LEFT FRONT COALITION in West Bengal, led by India’s biggest left-of-centre party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which runs the longest-surviving state government in the country, staring defeat in the face? Why is Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, once hailed as the epitome of a pragmatic New Left, appearing like a beleaguered figure straight out of a Shakespearean tragedy, stoically awaiting the coup de grace?
The principal opponent of the West Bengal communists, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, is waiting impatiently for the kill. Her gait has a swagger, especially after the recently concluded municipal elections in the state. She knows that it is just a matter of time before the Trinamool Congress is swept to power, with the Congress as its junior partner. She can soon expect to move from New Delhi’s Rail Bhavan—as Union Railways Minister—to a far more spacious room in the Writers’ Building, the red-brick-lined headquarters in Kolkata of the West Bengal government.
Most Marxists seem resigned to their fate. A section is arguing that it may not be a bad idea to hold early elections; that way, the Left Front can cut its losses and hope to regain power in the state in 2015, not 2016. Another section believes that this would be playing into Mamata Banerjee’s hands; she has long been demanding the state government’s dismissal. Many erstwhile sympathisers of the Left Front government are convinced that a regime change is not just desirable but imperative, that the communists must be shaken from their sloth and apathy to weed out the corrupt and the criminal in their midst.