‘We could stem the decline’

Print edition : May 29, 2015

Surjya Kanta Mishra, CPI(M) Leader of the Opposition in West Bengal. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

SURJYA KANTA MISHRA, Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly and Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), feels that a free and fair election would have revealed an erosion in the ruling Trinamool Congress’ support base.

In an exclusive interview to Frontline, he spoke of what might be the first signs of the Left Front’s political recovery in the State. “For the first time since 2009, we could stem the continuous decline.” Excerpts:

To what extent do you think this huge victory for the ruling Trinamool Congress in the civic bodies election is a true reflection of the mandate of the people?

It is not a true reflection of the mandate of the people. There have been widespread rigging, booth-capturing, terror and intimidation before and after the elections. All this was done with the backing of the police and the administration in many places. The State Election Commission was reduced to being a silent spectator.

Had there been free and fair elections, the Trinamool would still have won in many municipalities, as it did in 2010 when the Left Front was in government. But the erosion in its support-base would also have been very apparent in the reduced vote share. It would also have shown that the Left Front’s support has been growing, however small the increase may be. For the first time since 2009, we could stem the continuous decline we were facing. This was what was worrying the Chief Minister [Mamata Banerjee], and so her party resorted to violence. But what she did alienated her further from the people, as was reflected in the successful bandh [on April 30] in the State.

This result also showed that the Left is still the second alternative in the State. Your comments.

It is clear now that the hype created after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections that the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] is emerging as the number two party in the State has proved to be erroneous. The Left remains the only viable alternative. The rise of the BJP in the State after the last parliamentary elections was a temporary phase. Those who shifted their support from the Left to the BJP had done so with the expectation that the BJP would perhaps give them security from the repeated attacks on their democratic rights. But after seeing the performance of the BJP at the Centre, they have been disillusioned and have realised that it is only the Left that can lead the protest against the attacks on democracy. This has helped us to partially recover from the losses we sustained over the past years.

But we have to first defeat the rule of terror that has been unleashed in south Bengal. Though our victory in Siliguri in north Bengal is a very significant one, our main struggle will be to change the correlation of forces in south Bengal. Only then can any real change be brought about. That is why the successful bandh on April 30 was very important. The people of the State got a chance to voice their protest against the attack on their rights by supporting the strike, even though the State government tried its best to foil it. I have not seen a strike as spontaneous as that in a long time.

In many quarters this is being seen as a “semi-final” to the 2016 Assembly elections. How is the Left gearing up for it?

I want to make one thing very clear. In a parliamentary democracy, elections are very important. But no democracy can survive without the extra-parliamentary struggle. To us that struggle is more important. After decades of continuous struggle, the Left Front government came to power. While in office we realised that we had to depend upon the aspirations of the people and could not depend upon the State apparatus, such as the police and the bureaucracy.

We will not be happy in a situation where we are winning an election but our popular support is declining, whereas we would be happy to lose an election as long as we see our popular support increasing. We never compromise with this basic politics. We are focussed in the struggle to bring about change in the correlation of class forces. When we were in government our popular support was around 50 per cent, that was our asset. Our aim is not to come back to power by hook or by crook.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay