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Communist defeat

May 14, 2011

THE Left Front's humiliating rout in West Bengal goes beyond the usual factors of democratic change in India, even though the wafer-thin defeat for the communists in Kerala this week is part of a generally familiar pattern of periodic change. The 238-62 West Bengal verdict against 34 years of unbroken communist rule deserves deep analysis. What can be cursorily gleaned from the rubble of the political tsunami that laid it low are signs that the Communist Party of India-Marxist had lost the plot way back in 2007. That is when its cadres set off an untenable campaign to evict small peasants, mostly Dalits and Muslims, from their tiny landholdings for an industrial hub in Nandigram. Scores were killed and railway minister Mamata Banerjee led the protest against CPI-M atrocities, occasionally with the support of local Maoist groups.

In today's era of 'regime change', it may help to recall the few times that Indian communists did not commit hara-kiri. They were hounded instead by the country's pro-business establishments, on occasions with foreign support. They were first evicted from power in Kerala in 1959 two years after an unlikely historic victory in 1957. Communist efforts at land reforms prompted a coalition of Muslim, Christian and Hindu feudal interests to get Jawaharlal Nehru to impose president's rule. In 1995, after the advent of then finance minister Manmohan Singh's economic reforms, a widely reported collusion between British and Indian intelligence agents sought to destabilise communist rule in West Bengal. Arms were dropped in Purulia to assist the Anand Marg cult group to trigger anti-communist violence. It was to be a ruse to put the state under New Delhi's direct rule. The plan failed. More recently, WikiLeaks revealed American ire against the CPI-M, which only increased when the party opposed an India-US civilian nuclear deal. That, however, could not be the reason the CPI-M lost so badly this week. Regime change when effected by a dispossessed people is called democracy. The rusty communist party machinery, increasingly accused of arrogance by its own supporters would do well to understand this.