From Ashis Biswas
KOLKATA: For the beleaguered Left parties in West Bengal, the realisation that they cannot politically capitalise on the numerous blunders committed by the ruling Trinamool Congress(TMC) must be acutely frustrating.
A year after the State Assembly polls of 2011, the sad truth is that any setback for the TMC-ruled Government need not automatically bring joy to the opposition—not as yet. In fact, nightmares for the Left in what earlier used to be its political backyard, have continued.
On Friday, Mr. Anil Basu, five times MP from Arambagh and controversial Hooghly district CPI(M) leader, addressed a joint press conference along with his wife . In what must be a unique incident in the annals of Left politics, particularly for Communist parties, husband and wife threatened to sue the CPI(M) State Secretary and veteran politburo member Biman Bose for libel, of all things!
In what has been not very convincingly projected as an inner party cleansing campaign within the CPI(M) post Assembly elections, Mr Basu (66) has been among the worst sufferers. The once mighty MP has been dropped from the State Committee and is under a 3 month suspension at present, for alleged “corruption and nepotism.” He could be in danger of losing his membership, according to observers.
In recent times, Basu’s image has taken a severe beating, not least because of his earthy style of public speaking against TMC supremo Ms Mamata Banerjee before the polls. The party as a whole suffered a major embarrassment. Initially CPI(M) leaders were confused about Basu — his unorthodox style of functioning might have ruffled local sentiments, but Basu had been a key factor in fending off any opposition challenge in parts of Hooghly district by hook or crook. Even so, the man was asked not to appear in some public meetings. The local CPI(M) faction opposing him within the party, led by former MP Rupchand Pal, became stronger.
There is good reason why Basu sees himself as a victim of the cleansing campaign. Former MP Amitava Nandi and Lakshman Sett were also dropped from the CPI(M) State Committee. But then, Nandi had attended the Kozhikode party Congress as a delegate, as had ex state Minister Sushanta Ghosh. Nandi, who publicly protested his ouster (so much for inner parry discipline and the sanctity of” democratic centralism” as a concept !) could not be entirely sidelined by the leadership because he still retained a following in several zonal committees. Sett could not do much as the police arrested him in connection with certain allegations. Ghosh was also arrested, but later released on bail.
Basu was denied even such small mercies which could have helped him retain a measure of local relevance and influence. Worse, as his wife Sabita told newsmen, the party did not respond to his letters seeking details of the allegations leveled against him! “Is this the kind of response my husband deserves from the CPI(M) , after all the risks he has taken and the hard work he has done for the party ? It seems some leaders who are used to operating from the comfortable rooms in the party office have little appreciation of the kind of hard work that has to be done in the district to keep a party strong,” she said.
She had a point. If corruption was the main charge against Basu or nepotism, many other leaders in the two 24 Parganas, and Kolkata were also in the line of fire. Again, if shooting off his mouth was Basu’s worst affliction, costing the CPI(M) scores of votes in razor-sharp electoral contest, what about the repeated gaffes committed by ex Minister Gautam Deb or Biman Bose himself ? Even the otherwise suave former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was guilty of the occasional faux pas while speaking to newsmen or even in public! But no one dared to raise a voice against these leaders, who all retained their positions within the party and influence. Deb was allowed to strengthen his position in North 24 Parganas, despite losing in the Assembly elections along with the chief Minister and incidentally, shooting off his mouth !
In fact, the recently ended party Congress also proved a damp squib for most younger CPI(M) cadres, who hoped that for once , their seniors would be forced to answer for the serious errors of perception and policy formulation during the crucial 2008-2012 period. Also, they sincerely expected that with the defeat of most controversial leaders in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, the issue of corruption would also be dealt with in all seriousness. “As it has turned out, on both counts our hopes have been belied. No wonder our party finds it difficult to mobilise people as before on various issues, even as the ruling TMC continues to muddle along,” says a student activist of the SFI.
Given this backdrop, the cosmetic exercise of a cleansing operation and a hesitation in curbing inner party corruption will not help the CPI(M) very much in regaining its lost ground inWest Bengal. The leadership is short of new ideas at a time of crisis and it lacks boldness in the matter of setting its own house in order. Dissident leaders like A. Rezzak Mollah, not accommodated in the state Secretariat from South 24 Parganas, or Ashok Bhattacharya from North Bengal, are not happy about their present positions within the party. The former may not be far from quitting the party eventually, in addition to Basu.
All in all, not good signs for the CPI(M) or the Left as a whole. Among allies Kshiti Goswami of the RSP described Basu’s threat to sue Bose as unfortunate and shocking, but declined further comments.
Among TMC circles, joy was unconfined. Said Transport Minister Madan Mitra, ”The undemocratic ways of the CPI(M) will be exposed further and the party may even undergo a split.” (IPA Service)