OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

So the inevitable happened, and we have been gifted with Shmt Rashtrapatil, Swapan Dasgupta in the Pioneer summed it up best, Pratibha Patil won India lost. While the dust settles with the usual suck up to winner, cock a snook at the loser editorials in the Left of Center mainstream media, Shekhar Gupta in the Indian Express redeemed himself with a hitting opinion piece appearing unusually on a Sunday lamenting the decline of the two major parties and the unprecedented leverage enjoyed by the Prakash Karat lead CPI-M. The UPA-Left pick in Hamid Ansari for Vice President seems to be a smart move by the Left. If picking Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister was a masterstroke by Sonia in 2004, the pick of Pratibha Patil will go down as her worst blunder for the next 2 years in the run up to the 2009 elections she not only has to endure the national embarassment everytime Devisingh Shekhawat shows up at the court or Rajni Patil knocks on the CBI’s doors, she also has to face the vulnerability of a first ever Presidential Impeachment if the court verdicts go adverse. As Shekhar Gupta rightly points out the Hamid Ansari pick in contrast will be stark and the message unmistakable. Is this guy the most politically correct Muslim or what ? From promptly condemning M.F. Hussain’s paintings in the same breath as the Danish Cartoons to reacting to the Varnasi Blasts Hamid Ansari seems to be the right Muslim at the right place. His left leanings are no secret, one has just to look at the innumerable op-ed pieces by him in the communist rag tag The Hindu criticizing the Americans in Iraq and his acquittal of the Buddhadeb Government in Bengal of any communal violence in connection with the killing of Muslims in SEZ land acquisition related violence. No wonder The Hindu was quick to hail his nomination calling him a Statesman, it remains a mystery though when exactly Mr. Ansari acted like one by putting community and personal identity above National Interest. All in all he seems to be very much an establishment guy who makes the right noises at the right places and ensured himself a chequered post retirement career.

With Hamid Ansari all set to become Vice President, Offstumped trains its guns on a Municipal election in West Bengal. Shekhar Gupta’s op-ed piece makes an important point on the significant role likely to be played by the Left in the run up to the 2009 General Election. The unprecedented leverage enjoyed by the 60 MP strong Left comes primarily not from Prakash Karat or Sitaram Yechury’s personal clout but from unprecedented electoral dividends in Bengal and Kerala in recent times. The CPI-M seems on a suicidal path in Kerala with the endless intra-party squabbling between the party led by Pinarayi Vijayan and the government led by V.S. Achutanandan. The recent slush fund expose has further eroded the CPI-M’s moral high ground in Kerala. However the Buddhadeb Government in Bengal continues to weather the political storms in Singur and Nandigram despite the CBI implicating a CPI-M leader in the Tapasi Mallik murder case.

The left needs to be challenged and unseated from Bengal to break the UPA-Left axis of evil and to erode the Left’s unprecedented leverage on National Affairs.

Hence the interest in Haldia.

The India Express reports a  grand alliance like no other in West Bengal. A minor municipal poll in Haldia has got the Congress, Trinamool Congress, BJP and Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind joining hands to fight a common foe—the Left Front. In the 2002 elections, the CPI(M) had swept the polls 25-nil with a vote share of 73 per cent of the total votes polled and 64 per cent of the total voters. The TMC on the other hand got 9.91 per cent, the Congress about 7 per cent and the BJP 2.5 per cent. Haldia is the home of CPI-M strongman Lakshman Seth, who is credited with sparking off all the trouble in neighbouring Nandigram in east Midnapore district. Interestingly Lakshman Seth was also the chairman of the Haldia Development Authority and was in the cross hairs of the election commission during the Office of Profit issue. It is this same Haldia Development Authority that was going to bring the Salim Group into Bengal. Lakshman Seth’s moment of ignominy came on December 28th 2006 when he read out the notice of the Haldia Development Authority (HDA) notice listing the blocks identified for land acquisition in Nandigram. The notice mentioned the names of 27 mouzas at the Nandigram block that had apparently been shortlisted for the Salem-promoted chemical hub resulting in Lakshman Seth drawing flak from the party top brass for the “haste’’ with which he had issued the Nandigram SEZ notification.

Lakshman Seth’s wife is a candidate in the civic polls making it all the more, it remains to be seen if Lakshman Seth and the CPI-M pay the price for Nandigram in the Haldia Civic Polls on sunday ?

NOTE: To post comments http://offstumped.nationalinterest.in/2007/07/22/haldia-civic-polls-from-the-presidential-to-the-municipal/#comments

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