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Curtain falls on Left rule after 34 years in WB

News18test sharma, |

Updated: May 13, 2011, 4:59 PM IST
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Curtain falls on Left rule after 34 years in WB
During his second tenure in 2006 after the Left Front emerged victorious winning a stupendous 235 seats.

Kolkata: After seven straight victories, the Left Front government in West Bengal on Friday came crumbling down, unable to withstand the 'paribartan' (wave for change) of the Trinamool Congress.

The CPI(M)-led Front built on it's strength as the harbinger of land reforms, was the champion of the poor for 34 years of uninterrupted rule, till it hit a brick wall over it's decision to acquire land for industry.

The tenure of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee heading the sixth Left Front government made a promising start in 2001 when it won 199 of the 294 seats.

During his second tenure in 2006 after the Left Front emerged victorious winning a stupendous 235 seats, quite paradoxically, recurring electoral defeats followed since the 2008 panchayat elections, reflecting the writing on the wall.

The down slide began when Bhattacharjee, began to transit from a leader of the masses to corporate India's preferred Chief Minister.

Bhattacharjee, immediately after the swearing-in ceremony on May 18, 2006 flanked by Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata announced the Nano small car project at Writers Buildings.

Bhattacharjee started his second tenure with the now famous 'do it now' slogan to improve work culture in the state which was notorious for it's bandhs and strikes. The slogan died a natural death.

The communist Chief Minister courted capitalists, perhaps not out of choice, but necessity. Industrialisation was clearly the way forward and the Chief Minister was willing to implement it, whatever it cost.

Even if it meant using veto powers against his allies to renew German wholesaler Metro Cash & Carry's Agricultural Produce Market Committee licence to banning the words 'gherao' and 'bandhs' from the lexicon of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), he did it all.

The going was good, and Bhattacharjee, the poster boy of the Left Front, leveraged the gains in the 2006 Assembly elections. The results were taken as a mandate for industrialisation.

On March 14, 2007, 14 villagers were killed in police firing in Nandigram, the site for a proposed chemical hub in East Midnapore district.

Gopal Krishna Gandhi the then governor in a an indictment of the state government had said, "The news of deaths by police firing in Nandigram this morning has filled me with a sense of cold horror."

The 'recapture' of Nandigram by the CPI(M) from the Trinamool Congress was to follow, which the Chief Minister was to later justify as 'paid back in their own coin'.

Strongly disapproving the 'recapture', Gopal Krishna Gandhi had said "the manner in which the recapture of Nandigram villages is being attempted is totally unlawful and unacceptable."

When protests in Singur, spearheaded by Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee, gained momentum, the government failed to tackle it.

The fallout was that the state government could not retain the Nano project, and it's vote share.

In the 2008 panachayat elections and the Lok Sabha elections the following year, the Left Front was defeated, while Banerjee s Trinamool Congress, which was decimated in the previous Assembly elections, resurrected.

What followed were admissions that the Nandigram firing was wrong, but by then it was too late.

Next came the firing at Netai village in West Midnapore district on January 7, 2011, when alleged armed CPI(M) cadre opened fire on defenceless villagers killing nine.

This was denounced by Bhattacharjee, but a can of worms opened - the allegation levelled repeatedly by the Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee that CPI(M) 'harmards' were ruling the roost in West Midnapore district came to be taken up by the Centre, signalling that the state government was not only doomed on the industrial front, but also on law and order.

The Left Front often spoke of a rectification drive and introspection, but failed to make headway as it lost election after election since 2008, including the prestigious Kolkata Municipal Corporation last year.

Statistics had long indicated that it would be an uphill task for the Front.

Investment proposals came pouring in while the need for land acquisition was escalating. Agitation against land acquisition instantly reared its head. Of 1,350 million acres of agricultural land, the government held only 23,000 acres. And, only five per cent of this was fallow.

Lack of investments and over-dependence on agriculture took a toll on revenue collection and, in turn, the state's finances. Debts ballooned to a staggering Rs 1.86 lakh crore.

The state s list of investment proposals since Bhattacharjee took charge might be long, but success stories were few.

JSW Steel's 10-million-tonne steel plant was one of the few mega greenfield projects in the country to get land.

The Front government also put its best foot forward to provide land to Wipro for it's second campus.

The Bengal IT policy was formulated in 2003 and during 2001-05, the sector, with 32,000 employees, witnessed a 70 per cent growth, albeit on a low base. Wipro was the new feather in the cap of the Left Front, and Bhattacharjee was affirmed the best Chief Minister by Azim Premji.

The Left Front government came into existence with CPI(M) stalwart Jyoti Basu at the helm On June 21, 1977.

The very first decision that the cabinet took just three days after assuming was to release all political prisoners in the state, which was to be used by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee as ammunition in her election campaign in 2011 that the government also released 'criminals'.

The fledging government moved at a frenetic pace - it discussed the prestigious Haldia Petrochemical, passed the West Bengal Land (Amendment) Bill in the assembly, the Left Front Committee asked the state government to hold Panchayat Elections in March 1978 and the cabinet accepted the draft on Centre-state relationship.

One of the major decisions it took as early as July 4, 1978 was to reduce the voting age in the municipal elections from 21 to 18 years, while student elections took place in the Calcutta University for the first time in eight years.

In 1979 the West Bengal Land (Farm Holding) Revenue Bill, 1979 was accepted in the state assembly.

This was followed in 1980 by the state government declaring school education free upto Class X.

In 1980, the codes of conduct which bound state government was invalidated and full trade union rights, including the right to call and observe strikes was granted.

This in later years was to be criticised for the Left Front government unionising all departments, including the police.

On September 2, the same year a proposal for Centre's approval of Haldia Petrochemicals was passed in the assembly.

In 1981, the Left Front government declared education free upto Class XII and election was held in May for 89 municipalities with the adult franchise age at 18 years.

On September 12, the same year, the Communist Party of India, the Democratic Socialist Party and the West Bengal Socialist Party joined the Left Front.

On May 19, 1982 the nine party Left Front won 238 of the 294 seats in the assembly elections.

In the 1983 Parliament elections, while the Congress won a record number of 415 seats, the Left Front won 26 of the 42 seats in the state and the Congress 16.

One of the high points of Left rule was the inauguration in May, 1985 of the Salt Lake Electronics
Industrial unit by Chief Minister Jyoti Basu.

On March 23, 1987, the Left Front received a landslide victory and the Third Left Front ministry headed by Jyoti Basu assumed office.

Just a year later on February 28, the Left Front received a huge mandate in the third panchayat elections.

On August 22, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council agreement was signed.

On June 25, 1991, Jyoti Basu was sworn in as Chief Minister of the fourth Left Front government.

In 1993, the Panchayati Raj Act was accepted in Parliament through the 73rd amendment of the Constitution.

The same year, in May, the fourth panchayat election was held with the introduction of reservation for women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The Left Front came out victorious with a big margin.

In 1995 on January 30, the West Bengal State Human Rights Commission came into existence. This was the first ever state level human rights commission in the country.

That same year in July, the Left Front emerged victorious in the first election to the Biddhannar
Municipality, the posh satellite town of Kolkata and also in the Kolkata Municipal elections.

On May 20, 1966, the Left Front retained power in the state for the fifth time with Jyoti Basu as the Chief Minister.

In 1989, April 9, violence was unleashed at Keshpur in undivided Midnapore district.

It was to be one of the early weapons that Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee seized on.

Then came the name changing spell from Calcutta of the British to Kolkata of the Bengali's in 1999 with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee becoming the deputy Chief Minister, a post created for the first time.

In 2000, adding a feather in the cap of the Left Front government and the realisation of a dream, production started at the Haldia Petrochemicals on February 21.

The same year on October 27, Jyoti Basu called it a day as Chief Minister and on November 6, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee took over the mantle.

In December, the Union government accorded formal approval for Calcutta to be renamed Kolkata. The administrative order for change of nomenclature was passed on January 1, 2001.

The change of nomenclature of the metropolis is perhaps the only thing that the winds of change will not affect after the demolition of the three decade old Left bastion.

First Published: May 13, 2011, 4:59 PM IST
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