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Left divided on attending Pranab event

Calcutta, Nov. 30: The Left is divided on whether to attend the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Assembly from Wednesday, with the CPM and the Forward Bloc favouring a boycott while the CPI and the RSP wanting to use the event as a platform to voice the Opposition’s discontent.

The three-day special session will be attended by President Pranab Mukherjee, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and governor M.K. Narayanan.

The Left Front partners will discuss the issue at a meeting in Alimuddin Street on Tuesday.

The CPM and the Bloc want to stay away from the celebrations, accusing the Trinamul Congress and chief minister Mamata Banerjee of “disregarding” the Left’s questions in the House and “humiliating” Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra on several occasions.

The CPM and the Bloc believe that if the President saw empty Opposition benches during his address to the Assembly, he would “get a feel” of the “political atmosphere” of Bengal.

The state Congress has also decided to boycott the special session as their demand for a debate with the chief minister in the Assembly was not accepted by Speaker Biman Banerjee.

“If the Congress can stay away from a special session that will be addressed by Pranab-babu, who was the No. 2 in the UPA II government and a former Bengal Congress chief before becoming President, why should we hesitate? By staying away from the programme, we should send the message to Pranab-babu how Trinamul is trying to crush the Left in the Assembly,” a source quoted Mishra as telling Front chairman Biman Bose recently.

Mishra, the source said, had even suggested that the Front consider relieving him of his responsibilities as leader of the Opposition if it took part in the celebrations.

The RSP and the CPI, however, are of the opinion that “no opportunity” should be lost to voice the Left’s discontent in the presence of the President on issues affecting the combine.

The leader of the Opposition has been allotted 22 minutes during the three days to speak on 75 years of the Assembly. The two Front allies believe that it will be an “ideal platform” for Mishra to speak on the ruling party’s “undemocratic” behaviour in the Assembly.

RSP leader and former MP Manoj Bhattacharyya said: “We appreciate Surjya-babu’s reasons for wanting to boycott the event. He is regularly humiliated in the Assembly. But he is the only one from the Opposition who will be allowed to speak on all three days.

“We will celebrate 75 years of the Assembly. It will be an ideal platform for him to speak on how undemocratic the ruling party is in the Assembly. The President, the Lok Sabha Speaker and the governor should know all this.”

Mishra has been allotted eight minutes on December 4, when governor Narayanan will be present in the House, eight minutes on December 5 in Lok Sabha Speaker Kumar’s presence and six minutes the next day when the President will be in attendance.

The CPM leadership today told district leaders at a state committee meeting to “go hammer and tongs” at the chief minister and her party on the Saradha issue. The district leaders have been told to launch a “strong” movement in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections next year.