Left starts reasserting political presence in Bengal

By bappaditya paul

If the repeated uproar in the state Assembly in the first week of the Winter Session is anything to go by, Left parties, especially the CPI-M, have begun the attempt to reassert their political presence in West Bengal.

The move comes after a self-imposed six-month restriction the Left parties had decided to observe in criticising the policies of the Trinamul Congress government.

In the two previous sessions of the state Assembly ~ the inductive session in May and the Budget Session in August ~ the Left watched silently as Miss Mamata Banerjee’s government swiftly moved one Bill after the other. In this session, the Communists are using the slightest excuse to make their presence felt.

At the same time that the restriction expired, a number of back-to-back incidents, the police firing at Magrahat, the fire at Amri Hospital and the hooch deaths in Magrahat, have put the Trinamul government on the backfoot. The CPI-M, therefore, has not needed to search very hard for issues to corner the government.

Just five days into the present session which began on 12 December, and the Left has attacked on a number of fronts ~ they created an uproar on day two over the government’s failure to use the MGNREGS fund, on day three over the chief minister’s continuous absence from the House and the hooch deaths, and on day four they staged a walk out over the introduction of a land bill in the chief minister’s absence. On day five, they also staged a walk-out over state industries minister Mr Partha Chatterjee’s comment yesterday that the CPM-M had played a role in the Magrahat hooch deaths.

The Leader of Opposition and CPI-M MLA, Dr Surjya Kanta Mishra, justified their actions saying that in the previous two sessions they overlooked the flip-flops of Miss Banerjee’s government as it was the Trinamul’s first time in power and it needed some time to learn how the legislative functioned. “But they cannot be excused every time,” he said.

The Trinamul Congress chief whip in the Assembly, Mr Sovandeb Chattopadhaya, told The Statesman that the Left was trying to grab headlines by creating an uproar in the House: “They do not have any substantial issues and are disrupting the proceedings on one pretext or the other. But we too know how to deal with such situations.”

The ruling bench’s criticisms come after senior ministers Mr Subrata Mukherjee and Mr Chatterjee failed to make a truce with the Opposition during two separate closed-door meetings in the Assembly with the Leader of Opposition on 14 and 15 December.

In an immediate move to counter the Left, Miss Banerjee has on her own called an all-party meeting in the Assembly on 19 December over the Magrahat tragedy.

But the Left too is holding firm and refusing to step back. Opposition MLAs met the Governor on Friday evening and accused the state government of serious violations of legislative procedures dealing with the presentation and amendments to a number of Bills.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 18 December 2011.)


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