CPI(M): Rout In Municipal Polls Cause For “Serious Concern”

Here is the Editorial from this week’s People’s Democracy explaining the Left Front’s rout in the recent elections to 81 municipal bodies across West Bengal. The message: All is not lost; there’s another 12 months to regain lost ground before the all-important Assembly election next year…

IN the results of the elections to the 81 municipal bodies across the state of West Bengal held on May 30, 2010, the Left Front has won in only 18 municipalities.

The Trinamul Congress has won 26, the Congress 7, the anti-Left alliance 4, while 23 are hung, 3 have resulted in a tie. In whose favour these would be resolved will only be known in the future.

In the finest traditions of democratic practice, the Left Front led by the CPI(M) has accepted the people’s verdict. The Left Front in West Bengal has declared that it shall make a proper assessment and review of these results to draw correct lessons for the future.

There has been a massive media hype that these elections are a `semi-final’ for the so-called `final’ assembly elections in May, 2011. The politically conscious electorate in Bengal is discerning in the sense that it treats every election on the basis of its objective.

The Lok Sabha elections were to determine the government at the centre. The elections to the state assembly are to determine the government in the state. Likewise, the municipal and panchayat elections have their own objectives. Each election is, therefore, a different ballgame.

The Trinamul Congress has mounted a shrill campaign for the dismissal of the duly-elected state government and the holding of early elections. This is not only patently undemocratic but completely irrational.

The total number of people eligible to vote in these municipal elections was 85,33,000 out of a total electorate in the state of 5,24,32,000, i.e., only 17 per cent of the total electorate. This makes up for less than 40 seats in an assembly of 294.

The rest of the 83 per cent constitutes the rural Bengal electorate or more than 250 assembly seats, which has predominantly determined the character of the government in the state in the past. Hence, it will be fallacious to conclude that the results of these municipal elections are a reflection of the state’s electorate as a whole.

Nevertheless, it is a reflection of urban Bengal. To that extent, the Left Front is committed to undertake a serious introspection of these results. During the Lok Sabha polls in 2009, which saw a serious erosion in the Left vote, the Left Front had a lead in 525 of the 1766 municipal wards in the state or 29.73 per cent.

In these elections, the Left Front has won 603 out of 1791 municipal wards or 33.67 per cent. Hence, the situation now shows, at best, a marginal improvement in the performance of the Left Front.

Clearly, therefore, the setback suffered in the Lok Sabha elections has not been reversed but the downslide appears to have been partially arrested.

In the 2005 elections to the municipal bodies, the Left Front had won an unprecedented victory bagging 50 out of the 81 municipal bodies. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, however, it had led in only 19. In these elections, it has won in only 18.

However, as noted earlier, the leadership of 26 municipal bodies will only be decided later. The main reverses to the Left Front have come from Kolkata and its adjoining urban areas. North 24 Parganas district has 21 municipal bodies while Hooghly district has 12.

In 2005, the Left Front had won 26 of these 33 municipalities. This time Left Front has won only in 4 with a tie in 2 municipalities. This is a serious matter that needs to be properly reviewed in order to draw the correct lessons and apply the needed correctives.

The CPI(M) and the Left Front are committed to undertake this task in right earnest.

Condemn Israeli Massacre Of Innocent Civilians On Gaza-Bound Freedom Flotilla

On Monday May 31, Israel added another shameful chapter to its long history of blatant disregard of international law and the Geneva Conventions when its navy and air force attacked the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla in international waters, killing 19 international activists and wounding dozens of others.

In a wanton act of state-sponsored terrorism, Israeli warships encircled the aid ships, 150 kilometers outside of its territorial waters, and Israeli gunship helicopters dropped commandos onto the ships, who then began shooting the people on board without giving any prior warning.

The Free Gaza Movement website reported that the Israeli commandos were dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck.

Live footage taken from the Turkish passenger ship, which was posted all over the Internet, showed black-clad Israeli commandos rappelling down from helicopters and clashing with activists, as well as several wounded people lying on the deck of the ship.

The flotilla of six small and medium-sized boats was on its way to deliver and distribute food items, medicines, electric generators, building materials, and children’s toys to the Gaza Strip, which has been under a relentless Israeli blockade since the Islamic resistance movement Hamas took control of the coastal territory in June 2007.

In that freest and fairest election ever held in the Arab world, the people of Palestine delivered Hamas a phenomenal mandate of 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council against Al-Fatah’s 46.

Out of 1.3 million eligible voters, 77.7 percent thronged the polling stations in Hebron, Nablus, North Gaza, Tulkarm, Jenin, Gaza City, Bethlehem, and throughout the occupied territories to express their opinion.

However, instead of appreciating such a spectacle of democracy, in which the Palestinians showed a superb sense of political consciousness in bringing Hamas to power, the hypocritical Western powers, led by the United States, denounced the Islamic resistance movement and launched a dehumanization campaign against high-ranking Hamas officials, which provided an opportunity for the Zionist regime to impose a crippling siege over the ever-suffering people of Gaza.

However, Israel’s latest atrocity even shocked and outraged its closet allies like the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Belgium, and the European Union, which all condemned Israel’s assault on civilians in the Mediterranean Sea.

The United Nations, the Arab League, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Pakistan also condemned Israel’s crime against a humanitarian mission.

However, all this did not shame the Zionist regime.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon blamed the victim — in typical Zionist fashion — saying the activists themselves were responsible for the massacre and branding them allies of international terrorist organizations.

Had they got through, Ayalon said, they would have opened an arms smuggling route to Gaza.

Adding insult to injury, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak insisted that there is no hunger and no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The whole flotilla operation, he said, was “a political and media provocation by anti-Israeli organizations.”

Since 2008, the Free Gaza Movement and a coalition of human rights activists and pro-Palestinian groups have been sending boats and landing or attempting to land supplies to break the blockade of Gaza, including medical equipment and drugs and building materials.

This time the flotilla, the largest to date, carrying over 600 passengers — believed to include the Swedish author Henning Mankell and the Irish Nobel laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire — was organized by pro-Gaza groups in Greece and Sweden, the Malaysian-based Perdana Global Peace Organization, and the Turkish-based foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), all coordinated by the Free Gaza Movement.

After this incident, the world should realize it should stop kowtowing to Israel and should inform Tel Aviv that it can no longer flout international law.

All countries should send Israeli ambassadors packing and should call on the International Criminal Court to try the Israeli officials responsible for ordering the murder of unarmed civilians in an act of unprovoked aggression on the open sea.

And the international community should organize an enormous flotilla of aid ships from all over world and send it to break the siege of Gaza.

The Zionist regime understood the importance of this grand mission, and thus tried to instill fear in the hearts of the people of the Middle East with the massacre of unarmed civilians. But Israel’s bloody interception of the Gaza aid flotilla will highlight the continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip in the most dramatic way possible and will certainly increase the pressure to lift the siege.

So the blood of the men and women who sacrificed their lives on Monday for the cause of Palestine will not have been spilt in vain and will usher in a new era of hope for the oppressed people of Palestine.

Gul Jammas Hussain