India: Left Front victory in West Bengal elections
The Left Front parties won a resounding victory in last week's state elections in the State of West Bengal, the capital of which is Calcutta. The four Left Front parties won 199 of the 294 seats contested. This is compared with 203 seats won in the 1996 elections. Elections are held every four years. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (M)) won 143 of the Left Front's 199 seats. The other major electoral grouping, which included the Congress Party, fought a bitterly anti-left campaign, conducting terrorist actions against the Left Front. It won 86 (82) seats. The BJP, the right-wing Hindu fundamentalist party which holds power in the Central Government of India, did not win a single seat in the Bengal elections. The Left Front Government has been in power for 24 years in West Bengal and has been re-elected on six occasions. Defeat in Kerala In the State of Kerala, on the other hand, the Left Democratic Front Government was defeated by an unholy alliance of all the right-wing forces. "The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) had no hesitation in openly soliciting the support of the reactionary BJP and entering into an understanding with the neo-fascist BJP-RSS to transfer votes to the UDF", says a statement on the elections by the CPI (M). "By uniting with the Muslim fundamentalists and by rallying all caste and sectarian organisations, the UDF was able to substantially increase its vote share." There was a slight decrease in the percentage of vote of the Left Democratic Front but a three percent drop in the vote for the BJP compared to the 1999 national elections. In the state of Tripura where a by-election was held, the Communist Party of India (CPI) candidate routed his opponents in a four-cornered contest. This victory takes the Left Front's strength in the 60-member Assembly to 42. The seat being contested had been held by the Congress Party for 24 years. Elections held in three other of the 26 Indian states confirmed that voters are rejecting the BJP Central Government. The CPI(M) statement says "The BJP's electoral performance shows that the economic policies of the Vajpayee Government with its naked appeasement of big business and the multi-national corporations and the series of corruption scandals, have incurred strong popular disapproval. "It is for the allies of the BJP to realise that associating with such a party is affecting their own mass base and harming their prospects. "The CPI (M) reiterates its commitment to continue to fight against the pernicious policies of the Central Government including its latest surrender to the USA on the missile defence plan. The necessity to strengthen the third alternative has been underlined in the situation obtaining after the elections in these five states. "All efforts should be made to strengthen the united struggles and movements against the Vajpayee Government's policies and develop and strengthen the People's Front as a national alternative."