Kolkata: For decades, the Marxists sold Left literature during Durga Puja. Now out of power, the Communists are struggling to get people to run the stalls. And many locals are staying away.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has also complained of violence unleashed by the ruling Trinamool Congress in several pockets to prevent the stalls from coming up.
As Durga Puja celebrations peak, the changed political equation in the state has started biting the CPI-M hard.
For long, the Marxists used Durga Puja as a platform to popularise Marxist literature. Stalls outside Puja marquees across the state did brisk sales.
On sale would be classical works of Lenin, Stalin and Marx besides writings and speeches of Indian Communists. CPI-M supporters would manage the booths.
In power for 34 years, the Marxists had become accustomed to crowds. The occasion was also used by hangers-on trying to strike a rapport with party leaders and activists.
Not this time.
"This year the rush to our stalls is really quite low, maybe due to the changed political scenario," admitted Badal Singha, at a stall in South Kolkata`s Bhowanipore area.
"We couldn`t find enough men to manage the stalls. Earlier there used to be a rush," said a local committee member of the CPI-M in Dum Dum area.
Bacchu, overseeing a stall in Kolkata`s Lake Town area, complained that there were few buyers now.
The CPI-M, founded in 1964, is India`s biggest Communist party. It now rules Tripura and is the main opposition in West Bengal and Kerala. It was in power in West Bengal from June 1977 to May this year.
Since losing power in May, the CPI-M has accused the Mamata Banerjee government of fomenting violence against Communist supporters and leaders, besides forcibly closing down party offices.
"In most places such as West and East Midnapore districts and parts of Hooghly and Burdwan, most of our party offices are shut. So there we could put up only a few stalls," said a CPI-M source.
Incidents of ransacking of stalls by alleged Trinamool supporters and their hostile opposition to the stalls in many parts of West Bengal have been published in the CPI-M mouthpiece `Ganashakti`
"Still we have managed to put up stalls in most areas where there were problems," said CPI-M state secretariat member Rabin Deb.