Having returned empty-handed in the last Lok Sabha and assembly elections in West Bengal, the CPI(M) is pinning hopes on the 2023 panchayat polls to stage a comeback in the electoral scene of the state, banking largely on its renewed rural connect.
Sounding upbeat, CPI(M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty said it has been connecting well with people in the hinterland with various initiatives.
In the latter half of the last decade, the CPI(M) had to bite the dust in the wake of anti-land acquisition movements spearheaded by then opposition leader Mamata Banerjee, leading to losses in a large number of panchayat seats in 2008, emblematic of its impending 2011 rout in the assembly polls.
The party is working hard and determined to make a turnaround this time around, its leaders maintained.
”The credibility of the panchayat system set up by the Left Front since it came to power in 1978, making it a true local self-government, has been butchered in recent times by acts of the ruling party (the Trinamool Congress),” Chakraborty told PTI.
He alleged that panchayats have become a source of loot, and people in the rural belt are being deceived in the name of services like widow pension and the 100-day job scheme.
The CPI(M) has also set up a helpline for people to register complaints about “corruption” in their respective panchayats.
A party leader of a panchayat in Purba Bardhaman district claimed it is trying to give vent to the “outrage among people against corruption in local governance” amid allegations of some TMC panchayat leaders’ assets increasing disproportionately in recent years.
Chakraborty said that mobilisation of people in programmes organised by Left organisations at the district level has been very encouraging.
He said senior CPI(M) leaders, including octogenarian Left Front Chairman Biman Bose, are regularly holding public meetings and interactions in the rural areas to muster support.
Chakraborty also alleged that power is being delegated by the state government to several non-elected people, which is making the panchayat system redundant.
”People are ready to defeat the TMC when the elections are held,” he asserted.
The party, which had gone into a shell following the 2011 assembly election defeat, has also been making its presence felt with encouragement to young leadership and intake of freshers.
It has inducted four new faces in its West Bengal secretariat, filling up vacancies that were created after veterans like Biman Bose and Surjyakanta Mishra eased themselves out to make way for fresh blood in the party leadership.
A party official said that Debalina Hembram, Jibesh Sarkar, Jiaul Alam and Debabrata Ghosh were enrolled into the state secretariat, which now comprises 15 members.
The CPI(M)-led Left Front made some gains in the municipal elections held in March, winning a municipal body in Nadia district.
Another senior leader of the party said that the BJP, which had filled up the opposition space in the state since the 2018 panchayat polls, is no more a favoured option among rural voters, who are opposed to the TMC.
Claiming that the saffron party in the state is faction-ridden, he said that people of Bengal are not inclined to accept religion as a notion of politics.
Admitting that violence during the panchayat elections is a problem, Chakraborty added that incidents of recent clashes have been reported more among the ruling party members for greater share of power.