Thursday December 14, 2017
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Police lathi-charges Left Front rally in Kolkata

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Picture Courtesy: Arnab Mitra

By Arnab Mitra

Kolkata: The Boubazar area turned into a virtual war zone on Thursday with Kolkata Police resorting to brutal lathi-charge on the protest rally brought out by the Left Front activists protesting against the state funded atrocities. Activists of the Left Front were opposing the prevailing syndicate raj, frequent rapes, police inaction and murders of innocent people at the hands of Trinamool Congress sponsored goons.

Picture Courtesy: Arnab Mitra
Picture Courtesy: Arnab Mitra

While the rally led by the leader of the Opposition Surya Kanta Mishra began from Y Channel of Esplanade in Kolkata, Left front veteran Biman Bose headed a rally from College Square. Indiscriminate lathi-charge left hundreds injured at Burrazaar. CPM leader Md Salim was hit on the head during the scuffle. However, the agitators dared the attack and continued their sit-in program.

Later, Surya Kanta Mishra, Biman Bose and other stalwarts tendered a deputation to Joint CP Lal Bazaar.

 

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Left parties in India are facing an identity crisis

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Photo: Wikipedia

By Amitava Mukherjee

On the eve of elections to five state assemblies including Kerala and West Bengal, the Left parties are now in an identity crisis and have subjected themselves to two opposing pulls from within on the question of an alliance with the Congress.

In a recent article published in a mass-circulation daily, Prakash Karat, the former CPI-M general secretary, has honestly pointed out the self-contradictions that have hamstrung the communist movement of India from its inception. That the Left has now been clamouring for an alliance with the Congress is an outcome of such in-built deficiencies.

At this point, recourse to classical theories will serve the Left no purpose. Theoretically, communist parties are meant for factory workers but very few leading lights of the Indian communist movement can fit in this category. It is interesting to guess why Prakash Karat chose to do such a scathing introspection at this moment. Is it an attempt on his part to keep himself away from the hullabaloo and the shrill cries for an alliance with the Congress that some leaders of his party are raising?

In the annals of communist literature, this Karat article is exceptional. He has listed metamorphosis of the middle class leading to its inability to relate to Left ideology any more and absence of workers, poor peasants and agricultural labourers in decision making positions as the main detriments in front of his party’s expansion and wide acceptance among the masses.

This deficiency is true not just about the CPI-M. All shades of Indian communist parties are affected by it. However, Karat’s argument has also exposed his limitations. He still has great faith in the middle class. If this faith continues, the future of his party is bleak.

But Karat himself and almost the entire front-ranking leadership of his party are results of this system and it’s unfortunate that the realization about the position of the lower strata of society dawned on him after so many years – most of all after the serious drubbing that his party received from the people of West Bengal in the last assembly elections.

Instead of writing articles in newspapers, if he looks at the composition of his own party’s politburo he will realize that the job of cleansing the Augean Stables must start from the highest policy-making body of his own party.

This incomplete identification with the country’s toiling masses is now finding its manifestation among certain sections of the Left in a mad rush for an electoral alliance with the Congress which had, in fact, ushered in neo-liberal economic policies, a school of thought and practice the Left regards as an anathema.

Although some sections of the media are trying to drum up support for such an alliance, yet the CPI-M stands vertically divided over the issue with the Kerala unit being totally opposed to such an eventuality. Some constituents of the Left Front in West Bengal like the CPI and the Forward Bloc, have also expressed their reservations as they identify the Congress with a neo liberal economy.

It is really open to question whether a Left Front-Congress alliance in West Bengal will be able to deliver the desired result. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the Trinamul Congress had got 39.3 percent of the votes, the Left Front 29.6 percent, the Congress 9.6 percent and the BJP 16.8 percent. The CPI-M’s calculation is that by dint of an alliance with the Congress, it will be able to match the voting percentage of the TMC and thus outsmart Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. But there is a serious flaw in this calculation.

Unfortunately for the Congress, the party has very little presence in today’s West Bengal, except in Murshidabad, Malda and South Dinajpur districts, where the party commands more than 30 percent of the votes. But in the remaining 17 districts, the Congress only enjoys around five percent of the votes per district. Will this be of any help to the Left Front in defeating the TMC? The big question remains here.

But an alliance with the Congress in West Bengal is sure to put the CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala in an embarrassing situation. The LDF is now comfortably placed against the Congress-led United Democratic Front(UDF) so far as the coming election is concerned. That is the reason why not only Karat but the entire Kerala lobby of the CPI-M is uncomfortable about any alliance with the Congress as this will rob the Left of the much needed sharp edge in its campaign against the UDF.

By an alliance with the Congress, Left is certain to lose credibility. In his article, Karat castigated neo-liberal economic policies and “family enterprise” like political parties. Congress leaders may vehemently deny the charges, but both the indicators can point towards that party. It will be interesting to watch what answer the CPI-M proffers in the event of an alliance with the Congress.

In its nearly five-year rule in West Bengal, the TMC has not been able to give much good account of itself. If the Kerala model of removal of each ruling combination every five years has any justification, then replacement of the TMC-led dispensation in the next West Bengal assembly election is not undesirable. But any Left Front-Congress combination will be too opportunist in character to achieve anything good.

(IANS)

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Congress-Left ally can topple TMC in Bengal

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Kolkata: In a bid to topple the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, the Congress leaders were trying to forge an alliance with the Left Front in the state.

State Congress general secretary Om Prakash Mishra also asserts that only a Congress-Left alliance can defeat the Trinamool.

However, a section of the state Congress leadership, including Manas Bhunia, point out that party workers had repeatedly come under attack from Communist cadres during the 34 years Left Front rule. They fear that a majority of the Congressmen could switch allegiance to the Trinamool or sit idle in case of a tie-up with the Left Front.

Beyond the boundaries of Bengal, the Congress and the Left are political foes in Kerala and Tripura, and a tie-up in the eastern state could “dilute” their rivalry in the two other states, argue critics. In such a scenario, the BJP – which has been trying to make inroads in Kerala and Tripura – would stand to gain.

However, Mishra is dismissive of such arguments.

“Electorally, we have competed against each other for over 60 years in Bengal and will continue to do so. But at the same time, we are on the same page in opposing the Trinamool’s misrule.”

“We cannot allow the Trinamool another reign of terror and, as opposition parties; it is our duty to provide the people a better alternative. So it is necessary for the Congress and the Left Front to come together,” Mishra told reporters.

Contending that 40 percent of votes which the BJP polled in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections would come to the Left-Congress combine, Mishra has twice written to party President Sonia Gandhi calling for seizing the political opportunity and tying up with the Left.

“No rational mind will bet on the BJP getting more than five percent votes, the civic polls last year are an indicator of that. In 2014, BJP got nearly 17 percent of the votes at the cost of both the Congress and the Left.”

“So, with the BJP losing all its popularity and becoming insignificant, the opposition votes itself would consolidate when the Congress and the CPI-M combine,” argued Mishra, claiming that the alliance could win around 170 of Bengal’s 294 seats.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, while the Trinamool secured 39.3 percent of the votes, the Left Front and the Congress had 29.5 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively.

In the last assembly elections in 2011, the Trinamool, then part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), had won 184 seats, the Left Front 62 seats, and the Congress 42 seats. The BJP did not win a single seat.

Mishra, a Jadavpur University professor, worked for over two months preparing the assembly segment-wise vote projections and claims an electoral arrangement with the Marxists will not impact his party’s opposition to the Left in Kerala, where elections will be held at the same time.

“The political dimensions vary from state to state. In Kerala we will compete, in Bengal we will cooperate. The Congress-Left contest in Kerala or Tripura will not reflect in our combined effort to dismantle the Mamata government,” he said.

The possibility of a Left-Congress alliance has gained ground with Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and state CPI-M secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra and Marxist Politburo member Mohammad Salim publicly advocating such a coalition.

Chowdhury, who had been earlier insisting on the Congress going it alone, is now pitching for an alliance and has flown to New Delhi to discuss the issue with the party’s central leadership.

Mishra insists the combine would sweep the Muslim-dominated Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur districts – considered Congress strongholds.

“All six Lok Sabha seats in these three districts went to the Congress (four) and the CPI-M (two). If we combine, we can very well win all the 43 assembly seats in these three districts,” said Mishra, claiming Trinamool’s hobnobbing with the BJP has only furthered the disenchantment of the minorities against it.

“The disillusionment among minority voters has only been compounded with as many as four central ministers giving certificates of appreciation to the Mamata government,” said Mishra, referring to the recently-held Bengal Global Business Summit where union ministers, including Arun Jaitley, showered praise on the Banerjee administration.

“Both the Congress and the Left are well-regarded by the minorities anywhere in the country and when both these forces unite, the minorities are bound to root for them,” he said. Muslims comprise 27.1 per cent of Bengal’s population, according to the 2011 census.

The Congress has also been making efforts to reach out to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) to forge a grand alliance in the Bihar polls where old foes Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad joined hands to inflict a crushing defeat on the BJP.

Mishra said the effort will be to forge a formal alliance with a declared common minimum program, a chief ministerial candidate as well as a deputy chief ministerial nominee. (IANS)

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Violence in Varanasi during religious protest, schools, colleges remain closed

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Lucknow: Violence erupted in the temple town of Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of prime minister Narendra Modi, on Monday when saints and Hindu religious groups taking out a ‘Pratikar Yatra‘ to protest against a lathi charge and ban on immersion of idols in Ganga, turned violent. Schools, colleges and other institutions remain closed in Varanasi on Tuesday, following Monday’s violence.

Curfew was imposed in four police station areas. While the procession was underway in a peaceful manner, there was a sudden stone pelting from somewhere and the rallyists turned violent and started targeting the police personnel escorting them. Police resorted to a mild cane charge and fired rubber bullets to disperse the unruly mob. It also lobbed tear gas shells on the crowd after it targeted police vehicles and set on fire a police outpost. Situation limped back to normal as the curfew lifted by Monday midnight, an official said, adding schools and colleges were closed as a matter of caution.

Home department officials said that prohibitory orders have been issued in most parts of the city and it was a state of undeclared curfew in Girjaghar, Chowk, Gaudolia, Dashashmeghghat Marg, Madanpur and Baans Fatak areas. Police have put up barricades on these routes and are preventing people from taking to these roads. Unconfirmed reports suggest that there have been stray incidents of firing also. Police has appealed to the people to remain calm and ensure that no harm comes to property or lives.

The procession, attended by over 10,000 people, had begun from the Town Hall grounds with sloganeering and chants of Baba Vishwanath. The procession, attended by thousands was led by a ‘palki’ of Lord Kashi Vishwanath, followed by women and saints. Many Hindu groups had called for the protest march against a lathi charge and banning of immersion of idols in the Ganges, as has been the tradition during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Navtatri.

Rapid Action Force (RAF) and provincial armed constabulary (PAC) have been deployed in Varanasi, Dalji Chowdhary, additional director general of police (Law and Order) said.

At least 26 people have been arrested for their involvement in the violence, that injured over 50 people, including a magistrate and a circle officer.

(IANS)