A potentially volatile swathe of West Bengal has conveyed a critical message in terms of the electoral engagement. Having been convulsed by Maoist violence till about three years ago, the success of the democratic engagement in Junglemahal, comprising the districts of West Midnapore, Bankura, and Purulia reaffirms that peace has returned in a turbulent part of the state.
That elections were held without much ado is of far greater import than who won and who lost. The occasional call for “poll boycott” has cut no ice and the region can be said to have merged with the democratic mainstream. Quite apart from the result, this must rank as a positive signal to have emanated from the elections.
This precisely is the message conveyed by the subaltern from a part of Bengal that has historically been bereft of industries and has only the natural resources of forests and laterite soil to boast. The tribal in the Red Corridor is much too tightlipped or even shy to be explicit on a mood-swing.
Markedly, for the past three years, Jungle mahal has witnessed no murders or abductions. We do not know whether the killing of the Maoist leader, Kishanji, has facilitated the restoration of peace, as the police would have us believe. Yet we do know that if any part of the state has witnessed change, it is Junglemahal. Not that there has been a general surrender of arms, as both the CPI-M and the Trinamul Congress regimes had asked the Left radicals to do.
Still less has there been a surrender of men; the few who have given up belong to the very junior and innocuous rungs of the Maoist cadre. The nub of the matter must be that they have voted, assertively deviating from the extremist diktat since the early 1970s. It redounds to the credit of the government that its performance in Junglemahal&’s social sector has in large part facilitated the change.
Indeed, the social sector benefits Rs not to be confused with populism Rs have been more effective in the Maoist belt than anywhere else in the state. The sweeping coverage of the BPL scheme, supply of rice at Rs 2 a kg, the Kanyashree scheme, and free cycles and shoes for tribal girls have benefited the subaltern segment overwhelmingly.
The people will be benefited to a greater degree if the Mahatma Gandhi NREGS is executed more vigorously. In a word, the Assembly election assumes special significance for Junglemahal in terms of political theory. If hundreds of thousands turned up at the polls, it was a distinct deviation from Maoist praxis and most importantly, the acceptance of the State as an entity of governance. The victory of the Trinamul candidates in the hotbed of Maoist activity is a concomitant.