A TV grab shows Acharjee sleeping with the wads of cash on his forehead and chest
Agartala, Oct.19: Card-carrying Marxist Samar Acharjee would have slept peacefully on Thursday night after fulfilling his avowed “long-cherished dream” — not world revolution but “to sleep on a bed of cash”. Now his party has played spoilsport.
The Tripura CPM today expelled the 50-year-old Agartala-based local committee member after a local television channel showed him lying on stacks of currency notes, with wads of cash placed on his forehead and chest.
After Friday morning’s “sting”, Acharjee, member of the Bankumari local committee, had claimed the “Rs 20 lakh” worth of notes was his own money earned through his construction business and that he had done “nothing wrong”.
Samar Adhya, secretary of the CPM’s Sadar divisional committee which oversees the Bankumari local committee, however, said Acharjee had been expelled for actions inconsistent with the party ideology.
He did not spell out whether the CPM considered the cash unaccounted for, or found Acharjee’s actions in the privacy of his bedroom unacceptable, or was punishing him for the embarrassment he seemed to have unwittingly caused the party.
In a way, history is repeating itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, as Karl Marx had said.
If a peek into a member’s bedroom is leaving the Indian party squirming now, communists around the world had blushed when protesters burst into the toilet of former Romanian communist ruler Nicolae Ceausescu during the coup of 1989.
His palace in Bucharest apparently revealed a bathroom fitted out with taps and toilet-paper holders made of gold. The toilet became a symbol of Soviet-era doublespeak.
Cut from the golden taps to the money mattress. Acharjee made his expulsion sound a bit rich by hitting the CPM where it hurts most: the Tripura comrade was quoted as saying he was not a “hypocrite” like other party members who have huge amounts of money.
The contradiction of pushing a proletarian agenda but succumbing to “petty bourgeois values” has emerged as one of the biggest challenges before the Left at a time aspirations have taken a life of their own in India. So far, the CPM has been unable to address the issue and has confined itself to token measures under a “rectification” programme.
Sources said Acharjee, a party whole-timer, had made a tidy sum over the years by wangling government and civic construction contracts.
It wasn’t clear how long he had been sleeping on wads of notes — Acharjee told TV channels that it was a “dream” and a “hobby” — or why he hadn’t kept his door bolted.
Early on Friday morning, the sources said, a “jealous” acquaintance had tiptoed into his room, taken pictures on his mobile, and sent them to a cable TV channel and the state CPM headquarters. The TV channel has refused to identify the person.
What seem to have particularly angered the state CPM leadership are Acharjee’s “haughty” replies to a TV reporter, party sources said.
“This has been my long-cherished dream; there’s nothing wrong in it. The total amount here is Rs 20 lakh, which I withdrew from my bank account,” he said.
Acharjee, secretary of the Vidyasagar branch committee which is under the Bankumari local committee, was also quoted as saying: “I am not a hypocrite like other party members who depict themselves as proletarian but own huge amounts of money.”
He added: “The government owes me at least Rs 50 lakh more; why are you making such a hullabaloo over this?”
A furious state CPM secretary, Bijan Dhar, immediately directed Adhya to look into the matter and take action, party sources said.
“We are inquiring into the source of the money and whether Acharjee can account for it,” a party source had said yesterday.
He had added that Acharjee was unpopular in his locality, where he was known as “Sheyal (jackal) Babul (his pet name)” for his alleged cunning.
Adhya today said: “We examined the entire issue including the videograph, a copy of which had been sent to our party headquarters yesterday, and sought an explanation from Samar Acharjee. Since he failed to satisfy us, we decided to expel him from primary membership of the party. The decision has been ratified by the state secretariat.”
He said the party would never protect its leaders and members who engage in “unethical practices” but refused to elaborate.
The scandal comes at a time the CPM is supposedly carrying out a nationwide “rectification drive” to weed out or reform members who have adopted ostentatious “bourgeois” lifestyles. It is not known how many have been indicted or expelled, but sources say the number isn’t high.
“The penetration of alien bourgeois and petty bourgeois values is manifested in a lavish lifestyle, building houses which are far above the minimum needs required, spending large amounts on weddings of children, organising festivities on a lavish scale, etc,” a central committee document of 2010 says.
“There are examples of comrades who have acquired assets and incur expenses disproportionate to their known sources of income.”
Bengal comrades, too, have faced charges of opulence. In June 2009, Maoists had attacked and demolished the house of Binpur CPM zonal committee secretary Anuj Pandey in Dharampur near Lalgarh. The house had been a picture of affluence in a zone wracked by poverty.
PTI quoted Dhar, the Tripura CPM secretary, as suggesting that Acharjee “himself took the footage on his own mobile phone which was leaked to a television channel by his friend”. However, some of the pictures, as shown on TV, would have been impossible for Acharjee to have taken himself.
The PTI report said state Congress leader Ratan Lal Nath had demanded an inquiry into the movable and immovable assets of all Marxist leaders and ministers in Tripura.
“This incident shows that the party is corrupt and its leaders made a huge amount of money by misusing public funds,” Nath was quoted as saying.