The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CM = CPM - P (party)

Calcutta/New Delhi, Feb. 2: “We regret the inconvenience caused to you. Hope you will fly with us again,” the airline said as the plane was about to land.

So did the chief minister after the plane landed. “I am sorry for the inconvenience caused by it (the airport stop-work). I am happy that most of you have made it to Calcutta. I welcome you all to the city.”

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee opened his address at the national executive meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) with this apology.

There is an apparent contradiction in the chief minister’s expression of regret and his party the CPM’s support for the agitation by employees of the Airports Authority of India against privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports.

In Delhi, Left leaders met and decided to ask the government to overturn the cabinet decision to award modernisation contracts for the airports to private parties. They will meet the Prime Minister tomorrow.

Back in Calcutta, Bhattacharjee was telling the gathering of businessmen: “I was disturbed to see the situation (yesterday no flights operated out of Calcutta airport in the afternoon). I charted my own way. I spoke to the civil aviation minister. The government should sit down with the union leaders and sort out.”

He went beyond speaking to the central minister and told the state fire brigade to help out at the airport, a decision that could be construed by some as a move against the protesting employees.

In another departure from the past, airport employees in Calcutta ' unlike in Delhi ' did not block passengers.

If there is a conflict between Bhattacharjee’s talk and action, and the CPM’s stand, the party’s state secretary resolved it.

Anil Biswas said: “Someone occupying the chief minister’s chair cannot give a bandh call or a call for an agitation. The chief minister rightly said he felt bad for the passengers. I am also sorry.

“But I must iterate that Left parties have expressed solidarity with the protesting trade unions.”

So much so that the CPM has deferred its politburo meeting from February 4. The ostensible reason is that party leaders will not fly so long as the industrial action continues.

Biswas’s comment suggests the CPM is putting some distance between the actions of the government and the party, even if for the sake of convenience.

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat explained to The Telegraph that there was no conflict between the two. “He (Bhattacharjee) has not apologised for the strike. As chief minister, he apologised for the inconvenience caused to passengers.”

After all, business travellers must continue to take the Buddha Air flight to Bengal.

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