The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mission to sell Buddha to masses

Calcutta, May 27: High on confidence after the success in the municipal elections, the CPM brass today carried out an analysis of the party's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats ahead of the June 19 polls to the civic bodies in Calcutta and Salt Lake.

'We put a perspective on our own position and discussed how best we can counter the Opposition's challenge at a political level using our administrative and organisational strengths as tools,' state CPM secretary Anil Biswas said.

Though a local affair, the upcoming elections are showing signs of ballooning into major events. That is primarily because they are taking place when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is becoming increasingly pre-eminent in Left politics in India, the Assembly polls are only about a year away and the Left's relations with the Congress are multi-cornered.

The SWOT analysis that dominated today's meeting focused on determining how far the success in the municipal polls can be replicated in the city and to what extent the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee factor would pull in votes from areas beyond the Left's influence.

'Mamata Banerjee may talk about violence or rigging,' Biswas said, 'but we abhor violence. Our objective is to expand base by convincing all sections, including those non-Left, and getting their support.'

The CPM's overtures of friendship made in the past 48 hours to the business class, perceived to be anti-Left and dominated by a large Hindi-speaking population, and a body of followers of rival camps ' the Congress and Trinamul ' are a pointer to a strategy of cashing in on 'brand Buddhadeb'.

In the CPM analysis, the Buddhadeb factor, in a way, parallels the Tony Blair factor. Like the British Prime Minister, the party feels Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has reached a position from where he can pull in discriminating voters from the non-Left stream by virtue of his work.

'Among our strengths are our organisational structure and the performance of Buddhadeb's government,' said Biswas. 'Blairism or any such hypothesis does not appear to have a ready application here, but there is no doubt that Buddhadeb's government has succeeded in offering hope of economic and societal progress,' said a secretariat member.

The secretariat took a serious view of Mamata's threat to avenge the 'municipal poll rigging' in the next round. The party has decided to bring in workers from neighbouring Howrah and the 24-Parganas to counter the threat.

Biswas said: 'She had adopted a destructive and revengeful political line in Keshpur, Garbeta and pockets of Bankura. The people there rejected her party. The same will happen to her if she tries to disturb law and order in Calcutta.'

Trinamul leader Pankaj Banerjee reacted strongly: 'We never indulged in violence but always fell victim to it.'

Snatching the city civic body from Trinamul is a challenge to the CPM as it will help boost the cadre's morale before the Assembly elections. For Mamata, retaining it would mean proving that mayor Subrata Mukherjee's breaking away has not affected her.

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