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Partha in Buddha ‘shadow cabinet’

Partha Chatterjee

Calcutta, Jan. 3: Having stripped Partha Chatterjee of key ministries, Mamata Banerjee seems to have found a new role for him — to shadow Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose.

“Wherever Buddha and Biman will address a public meeting, I will hold a rally against their canards and malicious campaign. I will go wherever they go,” Chatterjee said today before leaving for Hooghly’s Dhaniakhali.

Bose, the Left Front chairman, had held a rally in Dhaniakhali yesterday. Around 300 people had attended it.

Chatterjee started his new innings by addressing a 15,000-strong gathering in Dhaniakhali this afternoon. Mamata had said Chatterjee would concentrate more on party work while “relieving him of the load” of the industries and industrial reconstruction departments in a reshuffle last week.

Having enriched the lexicon with words such as gherao and bandh, Bengal seems to have found its equivalent of the shadow cabinet. A Trinamul source said as Bhattacharjee was scheduled to address a public meeting at Esplanade on January 8, Chatterjee could organise a counter-rally in the heart of Calcutta after that.

As of now, no such rally has been planned, Trinamul sources said. They added that preparing for a rally in Calcutta would not take more than two days.

Sources in Trinamul said Chatterjee, the party’s secretary-general, had been sulking after the cabinet reshuffle. The industries and industrial reconstruction departments have been given to Amit Mitra. Mitra, who oversees the finance ministry too, has become the No. 2 in the cabinet, a position Chatterjee held till last week.

Although Mamata had said the ministries had been taken away from Chatterjee so that he could concentrate more on organisational responsibilities, questions had been raised on the role he could play in the party, where Mukul Roy calls the shots.

According to the Trinamul sources, the new role “had made Chatterjee happy” as before the 2011 Assembly elections, Mamata herself had held counter-rallies at places where then chief minister Bhattacharjee addressed public meetings.

“By giving him the responsibility of countering the top two leaders of the CPM, Didi has assigned Chatterjee a specific task. He is happy with this because it will give him prominence in the party,” a Trinamul source said.

Leaders close to Chatterjee said he liked travelling to the districts and interacting with party workers. “He will get plenty of such opportunities before the Lok Sabha polls as Bhattacharjee and Bose are likely to be the faces of the CPM’s campaign,” a leader said.

A section of Trinamul leaders found a “hidden message” in the move to get Chatterjee address counter-rallies.

“Didi has subtly made it clear that she doesn’t need to counter state-level CPM leaders herself as her aides are capable of taking on the Opposition in Bengal. This means, Didi doesn’t consider them worthy opponents,” a Trinamul leader said.