BENGAL POLITICS: Left blames debacle on disconnect

BENGAL POLITICS: Left blames debacle on disconnect – not in tune with the sentiments of the 21st century for instant & morally just information ?!!

Writer's Building - the blame game no longer working, ever try the responsibility card ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

Calcutta, June 26: The CPM’s organisational weaknesses and its social disconnect were some of the reasons behind the civic poll rout, a large section of the party’s state committee members who attended the first day of a two-day meeting here is believed to have said.

“Our organisation failed to counter the Opposition’s canards against the government. It should be viewed as our organisational lapse. We couldn’t explain to the people that they would suffer if the Opposition came to power. Many who attended today’s meeting are of the opinion that our failure was primarily because of this social disconnect,” a state committee member said.

Justice Jai Narayan Patel (right), the acting chief justice of Bombay High Court, was on Saturday sworn in the new chief justice of Calcutta High Court by governor M.K. Narayanan (left) at Raj Bhavan. Justice Patel replaced Justice Mohit S. Shah, who has now become the chief justice of Bombay High Court. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim and leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Partha Chatterjee were not present at the swearing-in ceremony - Left slowly and surely eroding its already eroded power base ?!! (Photo by Pradip Sanyal)

In a statement issued this evening, CPM state secretary Biman Bose underlined the need to “adopt programmes to get closer to the people”.

“We have noted that in some municipalities, our vote share has increased vis-a-vis the Lok Sabha figures while in some, it has decreased. The political and organisational deficiencies will have to be identified,” the statement said.

Several CPM district leaders today discussed the reports they had prepared on the poll debacle with the party’s state committee.

The district leaders pointed out that the party “had not succeeded’’ in explaining to the people the Opposition’s “anarchy’’. They said the party had failed to counter the Opposition’s “money power with our ideology’’.

A CPM source said the “miserable failure” of the party’s development plank, on which the Left had fought the elections, was also discussed.

“Development work is no longer fetching results. People have stopped voting for us, regardless of whether we work for them or not. It’s an uphill task for us now,’’ a CPM district secretary said.

The state secretariat asked the state committee members to suggest steps required to restore the support of the “poor, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the minorities”.

Dear dad (Hon’ble MLA), don’t back strike – changing sentiments in a rapidly developing world ?!!

People wait for vehicles outside Calcutta airport on Saturday - Dear Dad making more current sense ?!! (Photo by Pradip Sanyal)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH STAFF REPORTER

Calcutta, June 26: Reshmi has decided she will request her father, a Congress MLA, never to support a strike.

The Class VII student of the Delhi Public School (DPS) in Farakka, her mother Swati and brother Rahul were among the thousands of commuters who today bore the brunt of the Citu-sponsored 24-hour transport strike in Bengal.

The three had come to Calcutta to meet Mainul Haque, the Congress MLA from Farakka in Murshidabad.

Haque was not present when his family was struggling to find a vehicle outside Sealdah station to reach the MLA hostel off Kyd Street, where he has been staying since the beginning of the Assembly session.

The trio’s ordeal began after they alighted from the Gour Express at 6.30am. Rahul, a Class IX student at DPS, Farakka, was sent to call a cab. But the few taxi drivers who were present outside the station refused to oblige.

“They refused to go. I saw a group of strike supporters forcing some people out of a taxi,” Swati said.

A disgusted Reshmi said she would ask her father not to support strikes “because they serve no purpose other than harassing commuters”. “Instead of calling strikes, politicians should sit across the table and address the problems of the common people.”

Swati, Reshmi and Rahul had to wait for an hour before Haque arranged for a car.

Haque said tonight that he never supported bandhs or strikes “because they cause hardship to people”.

However, Haque’s party had called a 12-hour bandh to protest the alleged attack by CPM supporters on its MLAs at Mangalkot in Burdwan last year. Party activists burnt buses and all forms of transport were severely affected.

No taxi or auto-rickshaw agreed to move out of the Sealdah station premises today. The strike was enforced at the station under the vigilance of Citu leader Nihar Ghosh.

At Baguihati, Citu supporters stopped at least a dozen taxis and forced commuters out of the vehicles. They also threatened the taxi drivers. “I had thought I would manage to reach office after I hopped on to a taxi that was going to Dalhousie Square,” said a man in his mid-30s, who was stopped at Baguihati.

No policeman could be seen in the area.

Touts had a field day at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, where few taxies were present.

Those who could not arrange for private transport were left at the mercy of the touts. “They are charging Rs 450 to take three of us to Sector V,” said a senior official at an IT company who arrived from Bangalore this morning.

Airport sources said some flights were delayed because crew members and passengers could not arrive on time.

The pre-paid taxi booth outside Howrah station remained shut throughout the day. “I understand that the price rise is going to hit the common man but what about those who were affected by today’s strike?” asked Pawan Kheria, 60, who had arrived from Patna and was waiting for a taxi outside Howrah station to go to Ballygunge.

The launch service, which on normal days ferries around 1 lakh people to and from Strand Road, also did not operate.

Dalhousie wore a deserted look. Sector V was not severely affected by the strike because most offices there are closed on Saturdays.

Autos ride away from Citu strike – Calcutta to Canada: One protest torments a city but gets exposed, another keeps world leaders on toes – psychology of the rapidly crumbling left makes George Orwell turn in his grave ?!!

A strike supporter tries to stop an auto - with lost moral consensus and power base ?!! (Photo by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU

Calcutta, June 26:Paribartaner haowa” today caught an auto-rickshaw to ride to town.

Auto unions, once the preserve of the Left, defied the transport strike called by Citu and plied in many parts of Calcutta.

Not that commuters did not suffer but the three-wheeler rebellion somewhat cushioned the blow and mirrored the political shift that has been taking place in Bengal over the past few years.

What was unfolding on the roads was a reflection of a switchover. Many auto drivers have switched allegiance from Citu, the CPM’s labour arm that had set them up in business and allowed them a run unhindered by the constraints of the law, to a relatively new union blessed by the Trinamul Congress.

In sharp contrast with earlier strikes when autos stayed off the roads, the three-wheeler operators did brisk business on Saturday and sometimes openly challenged Citu.

At Lake Market this morning when a handful of flag-waving Citu activists stopped an auto full of passengers, the union got a taste of the change. The frightened passengers responded as usual and hastened to climb out of the three-wheeler, but the driver stood his ground.

Auto-rickshaws ply near Park Circus during the strike on Saturday - uprising from the poor made poorer by wrong policies ?!! (Photo by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)

“Let us see if you can break my auto,” the driver shot back when the Citu activists threatened to damage his vehicle.

Taken aback by the open show of defiance, the Citu activists let him off with a “warning”.

A Citu leader of Salt Lake, Prabhat Chatterjee, admitted: “The auto unions have gone over to the Opposition to a large extent. Don’t you understand, it’s the paribartaner haowa (the winds of change). People are switching sides.”

In places such as Gariahat, Park Circus, Sealdah, Burrabazar, Ultadanga, Phoolbagan, Beliaghata and Salt Lake, the three-wheeler ferried passengers on a day buses, taxis and trams stayed away because of the Citu-sponsored strike against the fuel price increase.

Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, Trinamul MLA and president of the three-year-old Auto Drivers’ Association, said today’s large turnout of autos proved that his party’s union had managed to reduce the Citu-controlled one to a “non-entity”.

“We are happy that the winds of change have started blowing across the transport sector as well,” Chattopadhyay said.

Citu state secretary Kali Ghosh did not dismiss outright Chattopadhyay’s claim. “There is no denying the fact that autos plied in large numbers today. It appears that many decided to ignore our strike,” Ghosh said.

That a section did assert its right to work and refused to be intimidated are welcome steps but the key reason behind the switchover need not augur well for the rule of the law.

If Citu and the CPM once looked the other way or actively encouraged auto drivers to break the law and behave as they pleased, Trinamul stood by them during a standoff over dumping polluting vehicles. Eventually, the autos relented but not before several attempts had to be aborted because of the political patronage the operators enjoyed.

Citu’s reluctance to unleash the full might of its enforcers, possibly fearing another voter backlash, also helped the adventurous autos to run today. Fewer Citu supporters were seen on the streets today than on other strike days.

Citu activists did stop the stray taxi and force out passengers and made a few autos and buses turn back. But at key points like the Gariahat crossing, the Shyambazar five-point crossing, Moulali and Park Circus, where Citu supporters have invariably flexed their muscles in the past, they were hardly visible.

Citu leader Ghosh said: “We did not deploy our men to enforce the strike this time. Instead, we had left it to people to make the strike a success since the fuel price hike affects everyone.”

Not that the auto drivers were doing community service. They did charge many times the normal fare. “There may be fewer Citu supporters, but the risk element is still there. So why won’t we charge extra?” asked an auto driver on the Sealdah-Beliaghata-Bamonghata route.

But passengers were not complaining. “I usually curse the autos because of the traffic jams they cause. But I want to thank them today. It is the only way I will reach office,” said 26-year-old Anita Basu as she alighted in front of Kalighat Metro station.

WHILE JUST YESTERDAY

Left gets wish, strike today – oops, missed… wrong move again, so what is the right move, no more progressive ?!!

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee - steadily loosing it entirely, with power in his hands but not in his head ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU

Calcutta, June 25: Just when the Left Front made it official that “we are in the government but not in power”, manna dropped from heaven in the form of the fuel price hike

The CPM’s labour arm, Citu, pounced on the godsend and announced a 24-hour transport strike from 6am on Saturday to protest the price increase. Public transport services such as buses, minibuses and autorickshaws will be hit but private vehicles will be allowed to ply.

The strike call within an hour of the Centre announcing the price decision, taken at a meeting boycotted by Mamata Banerjee, betrayed how desperate the Left is for an issue it can take to the Assembly polls less than a year away.

A few hours earlier, the Bengal government’s chief whip, Syed Mohammed Masih, had articulated that despondency. “We are in the government but not in power. We are bleeding and being attacked,” Masih told reporters in the Assembly lobby.

Masih was referring to the administration’s inability to stop alleged attacks on CPM workers but the admission mirrored the helplessness and drift in the government after successive election defeats at the hands of Mamata.

From Bengal to Delhi, the Left leaders’ thrust made it evident that they were more keen to highlight Mamata’s inability to stop the fuel price rise than debate the economic compulsions cited by the Centre.

Brinda Karat described Mamata’s “boycott” of the group of ministers meeting as “hypocrisy” while Benoy Konar called it a “gimmick”.

CPM leaders pointed out that no matter how much Mamata tried to distance herself from the price hike, she could not alter the fact that her party was the second-largest partner in the UPA government and she would have to share the responsibility.

Twisting the knife in Mamata’s discomfiture, CPM state secretariat member and Citu state president Shyamal Chakraborty, who announced the transport strike, said: “We hope that the Opposition will also support our strike.”

However, Trinamul leader Partha Chatterjee criticised Citu for calling the strike. “We know that the fuel price hike will cause hardship to common people. But calling a strike at the drop of a hat will not solve the problem. Instead, we should make an appeal to the Centre to roll back the increase,” he said.

Trinamul state president Subrata Bakshi said the strike had been called “with a political motive to rejuvenate party workers who have got demoralised after the civic poll reverses”.

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