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Downturn for minister on run
- Pressure on party to wash off taint
Narayan Biswas

Calcutta, Oct. 25: The CPM leadership has begun to work on ways to save Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee further blushes over Narayan Biswas, the minister who the police say is 'on the run' to avoid arrest.

Officials connected with the case that has sullied the image of the government and the party said the chief minister is pushing for Biswas's resignation, but is not being able to ensure that owing to conflicting views within the CPM.

Before leaving Calcutta for a party programme in Kanpur and the politburo meeting in Delhi, Bhattacharjee is understood to have convinced the leadership that the administration would have to act on cases involving Biswas and other functionaries.

The Election Commission had earlier made it clear that 70,000 people in Bengal ' including Biswas ' said to be involved in criminal cases and absconding will be dropped from the voters' list if they did not surrender soon.

'Buddhadebbabu does not want his government to be perceived as blocking the process of law. So he wants Narayan to quit,' a party office-bearer said a day after a report appeared in The Telegraph drawing a parallel between Bengal and Bihar in terms of lawlessness. 'But there are certain roadblocks that need to be removed,' the CPM leader added.

As it appears, one such roadblock is the South Dinajpur district CPM unit ' at least a large part of it ' which is insisting that the government or the party put a safety net in place for Biswas.

Popular in his constituency, Gangarampur, Biswas became an MLA and a minister after winning the 2001 elections on debut and came to be known as one enjoying the blessings of state party secretary Anil Biswas and some other Alimuddin Street bosses.

The arrest warrant against him was first issued in 1989 in connection with arson and rioting in a village called Ratanpur. In 16 years, he did not appear in court once.

'Had he not enjoyed Alimuddin Street's backing, he could not have got the independent charge of cottage and small-scale industries after Bansagopal Chowdhury's election to Parliament from Asansol,' a party official said.

Biswas is also a minister of state for transport.

The South Dinajpur CPM unit is believed to have cited minister of state for labour Sushanta Ghosh's free run to argue Biswas's case. A prominent leader from East Midnapore, he has an almost identical case pending, but has managed to stay on though Bhattacharjee is also believed to have taken a dim view of it.

'There are signs that we've begun to act on Narayan,' a party official said. 'He has stopped coming to Writers', using the official car and attending programmes as minister. He is phasing himself out.'

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