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‘Mascot’ Buddha retained in politburo

Bhattacharjee

Kozhikode, April 9: Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been retained in the CPM politburo and the central committee despite his wish to be “released”, underscoring his importance in the party.

The Bengal unit had insisted that he continued to remain the face of the party in the state despite the electoral loss last year.

The CPM politburo will also have a new face from Bengal with leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra making the cut.

The newly constituted CPM politburo, the highest policy-making body of the party, was announced today at the Tagore Centenary Hall in Kozhikode where the six-day 20th congress ended this afternoon.

Asked about the central leadership’s move to ensure Bhattacharjee’s continuance in the politburo, a senior CPM leader from Kerala said: “Comrade Buddhadeb led the party to the Bengal Assembly polls last year. We may have lost. But he is the mascot of the Bengal party, even after defeat.’’

He also underlined that the central leadership of the party had stated today that the Bengal unit was the strongest base of the CPM in the country. “Given that, how could we ignore Comrade Buddhadeb who is still leading the party from the front in Bengal. Rather, it’s an admission of the leadership that the party can’t do without him,’’ the Kerala party leader added.

Bhattacharjee’s continuance for another three years in the two highest policy and decision-making bodies of the party is also a reflection of CPM general secretary Prakash Karat’s acknowledgement of the former chief minister’s “acceptability’’ among the Bengal cadres, even after such a humiliating defeat.

“Karat may be running the party from AK Gopalan Bhavan in Delhi. But he could not ignore the fact that Buddhada is quietly running the show from Alimuddin Street in these difficult times. And that has had an effect on the central leadership of the CPM,’’ a party central committee member from Bengal said today.

While delivering the concluding speech this afternoon, Karat made this known to his comrades, too.

“Bengal is the strongest and widest base of our party. So, when cadres in Bengal are attacked or killed, the entire party should rally behind Bengal… and behind those who are providing the leadership there… and there should be no hesitation,’’ the CPM general secretary asserted, amid applause from the delegates.

Over the past three years, since the declaration of the 2009 Lok Sabha results that saw the Left’s tally going down to 15 from 35 in 2004, Bhattacharjee had stopped attending party politburo and central committee meetings outside Calcutta, citing ill health.

In October last year, the former Bengal chief minister had written to the CPM general secretary that he was unable to participate in the politburo and central committee meetings outside Calcutta as he was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Sources also confirmed that Bhattacharjee had verbally communicated to Karat then that he wanted to opt out of the politburo and central committee as he was not being able to attend the meetings. He justified this by saying that his continuance would send a wrong message to the party rank and file — that he wanted to cling on to these posts.

His unwillingness was also interpreted in political circles as a message to Karat that the latter, like him, should also own moral responsibility for the electoral debacle in Bengal and Kerala.

His letter to Karat on the inaugural day of the party congress expressing inability to take part in the event had fuelled further speculation about his unwillingness to continue in these two top bodies of the party. Today’s announcement by the party about Bhattacharjee’s continuance puts to rest the speculation surrounding his “to be or not to be’’ in the politburo and central committee.

A Bengal state secretariat member said: “The central leadership had understood the pulse of the Bengal party… that they want Buddhada to carry on. They have not been let down. The development will certainly boost the flagging morale of our rank and file.”

Besides the inclusions, the party leadership today dropped two Bengal leaders Mohammad Amin and Benoy Konar from the politburo and central committee “at their request on health grounds’’. Konar has been made chairman of the central control commission of the party — a body meant to look into allegations against party members.

Three representatives from Bengal have also been included in the central committee. They are Rekha Goswami, Nripen Chowdhury and Deepak Dasgupta.