Mamata Banerjee, the mercurial new Chief Minister of West Bengal who once famously appealed to the Maoists with folded hands to come to the talks table is now facing the challenge of implementing her much wanted strategy of engaging the rebels politically. She has declared a massive development plan for the region which had become the Maoist bastion but was usurped by security forces during rule of the previous government led by the Left Front. Thus reaping the reward of strong security action, Mamata hopes to become a Messiah against the guerrillas. Will she succeed remains to be seen as a battle of wits unfolds in India’s counter Naxal campaign?
The Maoists have adopted a varied strategy for each state depending on how they can retain or regain hold in the area. The Naxal situation in West Bengal which has seen an upsurge of violence over the past two years in 2009 and 2010 is likely to see some short term improvements more due to policing action in the past and political approach of the new government in West Bengal. In a shrewd strategy the Maoists have decided to declare a ceasefire in the state to give Mamata Banerjee “time to fulfil her promises to Jungle Mahal,” but their demand includes withdrawal of the forces. “We want her (Mamata) to fulfil all the promises she had made in last year’s Lalgarh rally. We will not place any fresh demands to the chief minister for now,” Bikram, a state committee member of the CPI (Maoist), said in a statement. “We are even ready for talks with the state government,” the statement says.
The central police forces have complained that under the new dispensation of the Trinamool Congress State police are not providing adequate intelligence inputs, whether this would lead to some lasting solution by adopting a political soft approach overall remains to be seen. For the Maoists in their larger struggle against the State, these are small intermissions which also provide an opportunity to build their networks which have been destroyed over the past years of operations in the area, rest, refit and reorganize their cadres and also strike in other area in the country. Thus this break in West Bengal may be only a small gap in the continuance of the overall revolutionary struggle by the guerrillas.
Maoists are also taking up various popular causes as they supported the fast by yoga guru Ramdev during the month. Maoist leader Akash on behalf of West Bengal state committee of the Maoist brigade said, "We are always with the movements against corruption." "Our party believes that only through the united, well-organized and militant mass struggles, corruption can be put to an end. Our party appeals to raise voice against all these thieves and dacoits who are involved in endless corruption, scams and plunder and who have stashed trillions of rupees of black money in Swiss banks have no right to be in power even for a moment," said Akash. Maoist central committee had also supported Anna Hazare's movement against corruption.
Similarly the Maoists have threatened the Tatas to withdraw their case in the Supreme Court against return of land ordered by the State government and have supported the anti Posco agitation in Orissa. Previously in Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal the Maoists had similarly taken on the local ire as an issue thereby adding to the challenges faced by then Left Front West Bengal government which also provided the present ruling Party the Trinamool Congress a chance to take up the issue and make a come back. Thus the guerrillas will similarly use such opportunities in other area as well from time to time to expand their support base.
Sensing an opportunity to win over popular support with a mass movement Naxals are savvy populists and political scientists who have quickly aligned themselves behind hunger strikes or other agitations, as these issues also gel with their main fight against the present system of governance.
Thus the ideological and structural motives being common Baba Ramdev has found unlikely support in the Naxals who will also find traction in the method of protests being mass based. While there is unlikely to be any physical truck or advantage that can be derived by both the sides, the Naxal strategy of taking up a popular cause and adapting the same for expanding their base needs to be underlined.
Mamata Banerjee gained confidence by winning the political battle by wresting power from the Left Front in West Bengal. She is now looking forward to a similar success over the guerrillas in the jungle. Whereas the Left Front’s hold in their bastion had been undermined due to mismanagement of the economy and usurping of governance by local cadres, the Maoists continue to remain politically and ideologically strong in Central India. Thus Mamata may find this a more challenging task then perhaps toppling Buddhadeb from Writer’s Building in Kolkata?