Gautam Deb speaks at the Esplanade rally on Tuesday. Picture by Anup Bhattacharya
Calcutta, Sept. 10: CPM leader Gautam Deb today led a rally in Esplanade to protest the panchayat samiti sabhapati’s murder in North 24-Parganas, triggering speculation that he was projecting himself as a “frontrunner” for the party state secretary’s post.
The party’s decision to hold a rally came within days of the three-day meeting of the CPM state committee and its extended session, where proceedings were dominated by calls for a change of leadership at Alimuddin Street.
“Gautamda is certainly a frontrunner for the state secretary’s post. He may succeed Bimanda (Bose) because a section in our party favours him for his dynamism and aggressive posturing. What could be a better timing but to launch such a demonstration under his leadership in Calcutta just two days after several party leaders called for a change in the top brass,” a CPM leader today said.
Deb is a member of the CPM state secretariat — the party’s highest policy-making body at the state level — and also the central committee — the highest decision-making body at the national level.
Deb is known to have enjoyed the backing of former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee ever since his days as a housing minister in his cabinet. The late Jyoti Basu also liked Deb for his outspoken views.
“He (Deb) is a strong, gutsy face in our party. Look at how he improved the CPM’s performance in the rural polls in North 24-Parganas,” a leader said.
During the assessment of panchayat poll performance, leaders believed to be close to Deb highlighted how the party fared better than expected in North 24-Parganas under his leadership.
Asked about the demonstration today, Deb said: “The attention of Calcuttans and the media are needed to highlight such a horrific incident. I will hold more such meetings to revive our organisation.”
The comment is significant in view of the discussion at the state committee meeting, where at least three front-ranking CPM leaders, all former ministers and party MPs, criticised the state leadership for its failure to build a movement on issues such as the Saradha default crisis, farmer suicides and atrocities against women.
According to a CPM insider, Deb needs to project himself because some leaders from West Midnapore and Burdwan and a small fraction of the South 24-Paragans unit are against the former housing minister, whose high-handed behaviour has often been criticised.
Deb, however, has several key leaders of North 24-Parganas, Calcutta, South 24-Parganas, Murshidabad, Nadia and Hooghly by his side.
Sources in the party said the chances of removing Bose till his term ends in 2015 were remote as CPM party secretaries are selected after the state conference.
“He (Deb) has already started projecting himself for the top post as he is aware that he will have to face stiff opposition from a section in the party,” a source said.