The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Basu in unity ‘last wish’

Calcutta, March 16: Jyoti Basu tonight appealed for Left Front unity, terming it his “last wish”, after the smaller partners threatened to pull out over a five-point charter of demands that the CPM was in no mood to concede.

As the demands by the RSP, CPI and the Forward Bloc — which included a police pullback from Nandigram and a front condemnation of the “carnage” — triggered a deadlock, CPM state secretary and front chairman Biman Bose rushed to the party patriarch’s home.

Basu, who also spoke over the phone to Bloc veteran Asoke Ghosh — the front’s most senior leader after him — promised to be at tomorrow’s crucial front meeting.

“My last wish is that the front stays united. As long as I am alive, don’t break Left unity,” Basu said. “I believe the crisis will pass after tomorrow’s meeting.”

“We’re waiting for your intervention,” Ghosh told him.

A CPM state secretariat meeting had earlier refused to condemn the firing despite Basu’s strong disapproval of the police action at yesterday’s front meeting.

The secretariat meeting, which Basu didn’t attend, felt that accepting the allies’ demands would amount to an indictment of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

The allies, after decades of kowtowing to the “big brother”, had made it clear they were ready for a showdown tomorrow. They emerged from a huddle at the Bloc office waving their charter of demands.

Other than a police pullback and joint condemnation, they want the government to fix responsibility for the firing and the chief minister to promise that no land would be taken over in Nandigram for the proposed chemical hub or any special economic zone.

Also, the CPM must agree that from now on, every major policy decision will be taken at the state cabinet’s core committee — made up by a member from each of the four parties — or the front committee.

“Else, we will be compelled to quit the government,’’ Ghosh had said.

At the CPM secretariat, some members protested they hadn’t been told that the police action would be so severe. “It’s better to resign than be kept in the dark,” a senior member is believed to have said.

But the party decided to stand firm behind the chief minister. “Not all of us are happy about the police firing. But if we condemn it, we will be condemning our own government. Then, if the chief minister wants to step down, are the allies ready for that crisis'’’ a CPM leader said.

A senior RSP minister said: “We are determined to jolt the derailed government back on tracks. But we can’t afford to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

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