The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM strikes out to do bandh repairs
- Questions: Why did Meera go to work, why was she heckled, why Buddha’s ticking-off

Calcutta, Sept. 30: The CPM today started an exercise to contain the fallout of the bandh day incidents involving Mr and Mrs Bhattacharjee, indulging in some absurdities in the process.

It tried to grapple with two questions. One, why Meera Bhattacharjee, the chief minister’s wife who was stopped by alleged Citu and CPM members as she was making her way to office, was going to work on bandh day despite being so close to the party.

Two, why her husband, Buddhadeb, had to get off the car to tell a procession of bandh supporters not to stop people from going to work and not to block the road.

“It is not an issue, but the media are flogging it because it involves the chief minister’s wife,” said Anil Biswas, the state CPM secretary.

In trying to douse the fire lit by the “media”, Biswas was spraying foam all around. For instance, he said at one stage that the 150-200 people who had gathered at the spot at Park Circus where Meera’s car was stopped did not belong to either Citu or CPM.

Talking of absurdities, he added that the person who led them was, however, a CPM member. “We cautioned him last evening because stopping cars on a strike day is not our style,” Biswas said.

If taken seriously, that statement would mean a departure from more than 25 years of practice. All through this period and in all the bandhs observed during it, CPM/Citu activists have always prevented people from going to work. And the government has made sure they can’t because state transport has not plied.

Getting back to the party leader who led a bunch of people whom he had no right to lead, Jahar Dasgupta, a member of the CPM’s Calcutta district committee, had told this newspaper yesterday that “our comrades did not recognise Meeradi, so they made the mistake of stopping her car”.

Also cautioned was Md. Nizamuddin, a Citu leader who was tasked with enforcement of the strike at Park Circus.

Biswas worked during the day with Jyoti Basu and other senior leaders to structure a face-saver for Citu that is acceptable to Bhattacharjee who had alighted from his car in Park Street to tick off a group of marching Citu supporters after Meera’s heckling.

“We are in agreement with Anil babu,” said a senior Citu functionary. “We must regard the Meera Bhattacharjee incident as a non-issue. Because if you (Biswas) want to take it seriously, then you must take the police baton blows on an MP (Amitava Nandi) and senior functionaries in Salt Lake (during the civic polls earlier this year) seriously as well.”

Biswas, whose job it is to manage contradictions within the party and between the government or the party and Citu, was under pressure from various sides over the two incidents. “Contrary to reports, there are no differences between Buddhadeb and Citu,” he said. “Buddhadeb did not rebuke them (Citu supporters), he actually stopped to remind or advise them how to march in a procession.”

Those who took exception to his action were asking why the chief minister had to make a public show instead of sending a message through accompanying police officers.

“Buddha did no wrong. We are with him on this,” Biswas said.

It is believed Bhattacharjee also had a talk on the issue with Basu.

Biswas admitted that Meera was a “prominent sympathiser and not a card-carrying member (of the CPM)”, but sought to justify her going to office on a day of strike called by the labour arm of the party with support of the politburo.

“She works in an essential service organisation, so she had to go,” Biswas said. Meera is a librarian in a company that is into civil engineering, consultancy and healthcare.

Sources said the leadership looked at reports that a section of the CPM/Citu, agitated over issues like the government according favoured treatment to information technology and, more recently, the police action against CPM functionaries in the Salt Lake civic poll, might have played a hand in Meera’s heckling.

It also initiated an inquiry into why the police were inactive when intimidation, coercion and violence took place across the city.

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