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CPM tension out in open

New Delhi, Nov. 14: The tension within the CPM over whether or not to keep information technology companies out of strikes erupted in the open today when Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reacted angrily to comments made by fellow politburo member M.K. Pandhe.

“I do not want to comment on what Pandhe has said,” said an angry Bhattacharjee. “Ask Pandhe,” he replied, asked to respond to the Citu president’s remark some minutes earlier that there was no reason for IT to be treated as an essential service and, therefore, enjoy protection against strikes.

Pandhe had said: “The IT sector is not part of essential services even in England. The employees in this sector join strikes.”

But the labour leader did not appear to have the CPM leadership’s support as politburo member Sitaram Yechury said before Pandhe spoke: “The IT sector has different categories. The Bengal government will have to take a decision whether or not to describe the 24-hour service providers in this sector as part of essential service.”

The backdrop to these comments is the nationwide strike called by trade unions on December 14 and Bhattacharjee’s expressed determination to see to it that IT companies in Bengal work during it because they are 24x7 in nature.

Citu, particularly its central leadership, has been doggedly opposing keeping IT out of the strike.

Yechury’s statement appeared to support Bhattacharjee’s position as he distinguished “24-hour service providers” as a separate category, deserving of being spared disruption.

All three leaders spoke in between attending the politburo meeting where the IT controversy is not being formally discussed. The central leadership has left it to Bhattacharjee’s government and the local Citu unit to thrash out the issue.

In a way it has strengthened the chief minister’s hand since a fiat from the party’s central leadership would have tied him down. At the same time, however, Citu’s central leaders have been arguing that it’s not for the CPM politburo to decide what course the union will take.

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