The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jab at Mamata, salve on allies

Calcutta, Jan. 12: Blending a call for unity with self-criticism, the CPM, the leader of the Left Front, today sought to calm its pugnacious allies and, at the same time, energise its cadre in view of the approaching panchayat election.

All its top leaders — from Jyoti Basu to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, state unit secretary Anil Biswas to Front chairman Biman Bose — chanted the unity mantra and admitted to failures in areas of governance in the past 25 years at the huge rally.

Called by the CPM in protest against the BJP-led Centre’s “anti-people” policies and to underline the need for maintaining communal amity, the rally, taking place against the backdrop of escalating tension between the CPM and the allies, took the form of an exercise in relationship management.

However, the CPM leadership deftly kept the thorny issues affecting ties with allies Forward Bloc and the RSP outside the proceedings of the meeting, using, instead, Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee’s “join-me” exhortation to the allies as a provocation for chanting unity.

“They (the Trinamul) are fools. They are unaware of the historical background of the birth of a phenomenon called (the) Left Front,” said Bhattacharjee in a broadside to Mamata. Leaders of all nine Front constituents present on the dais purred in agreement when the chief minister further criticised her for forging an alliance with the BJP and allowing it space in Bengal politics.

The tone for the meeting was set by Bose and later expanded by Basu, Bhattacharjee and Biswas. The highpoint of Basu’s address was his admission to many failures in the past 25 years and showering of encomiums on Bhattacharjee. “He is doing exceedingly well, and we have no doubt that he will carry out the unfinished task and correct the past mistakes of the party.” The bulk of Basu’s speech was devoted to bashing the BJP.

However, Bhattacharjee and Biswas addressed the issue of panchayat elections and the current friction between the CPM and the allies, who have begun contesting the former on issues, at times even challenging the government.

The top leaders then lapsed into self-criticism with regard to lack of roads, drinking water, electricity in the rural districts and underscored the need for unity in the Front so that the traditional power levers did not slip out of the communists’ hands.

Biswas, who has the unenviable task of ironing out factionalism in different district units and of maintaining equilibrium in the relationship with the allies, called for a larger consensus among the Front partners in the three-tier election. Last time the election saw intra-Front division in at least 12,000 seats.

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