In Bengal,the CPM fears a culture of violence it had helped create
This June,the CPM worker in West Bengal is a hunted creature. He will travel in packs and remain on the run,stopping only to take pictures of potential attackers on his mobile camera. Guerrilla tactics are needed in the campaign for the approaching panchayat polls. The advisory distributed by the CPM to its workers suggests a party under siege,its pointed sense of injury directed at the ruling TMC. Already,the Left Front chairman has accused the TMC of intimidation and attacks on CPM cadre filing their nominations for the polls.
The tables have turned since the last panchayat elections in the state,held in 2008. Then,gun-slinging,sword-wielding CPM workers had patrolled villages on the day of the polls,driving away non-supporters,descending on TMC candidates,beating up polling agents. The party might have spared itself the trouble the 2008 polls saw a dramatic decline in its popularity. Inter-party rivalry frequently takes a grisly turn in Bengal; over the years,it has left a trail of violence,abduction and murder. It was the Left Front which entrenched this vocabulary of violence,during its 34 years in the state government. Tightly organised CPM foot soldiers ranged the countryside,ensuring the partys continued dominance. In 2011,when the TMC came to power and the state swung from one overwhelming mandate to another,a grim poriborton took place. Violence changed colour as lakhs of CPM workers joined TMC ranks.
This year,a visibly weakened TMC goes to polls,shaken by the recent chit fund scam,its popularity eroded by two years of misgovernment. Not long ago,former chief minister and CPM leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said those who had deserted were returning to the party fold. The clouds of poriborton may be gathering again.