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Buddha set to return to shunned terrain

Calcutta, Jan. 11: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will address a rally in West Midnapore on February 2 to boost the flagging morale of cadres in a former party stronghold he has rarely visited since Maoists targeted his convoy in 2008.

CPM sources said the party had requested the former chief minister several times to visit the district where Trinamul has trumped the Left in successive elections in the recent past. The politburo member will address the rally at Midnapore town.

The meeting is being seen as an attempt to enthuse cadres ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in a district where the CPM holds all three parliamentary seats. The panchayat polls last year, however, showed that the CPM’s organisational strength had diminished considerably. Of the 67 zilla parishad seats in the district, the CPM had won only two.

“Buddhada still remains the most credible face of the party. Many of our cadres have left the party or gone into hiding because of attacks by Trinamul goons. We are trying to bring at least some of them back into the party fold before the parliamentary elections,” a senior district CPM leader said today.

Bhattacharjee had visited West Midnapore in the run-up to the 2011 Assembly elections for administrative meetings and party gatherings. He again went there in February 2012 but, like his earlier visit, restricted himself to Midnapore town.

Other senior CPM leaders have also stayed away from West Midnapore since the 2008 Salboni blast.

A section of CPM leaders said Bhattacharjee and other senior leaders had not been requested earlier to tour the district because the organisation was in a bad shape following the successive electoral defeats. But one leader said the “time had come to use Buddhada’s services”, with the Lok Sabha elections months away.

A district leader said at least 60 party offices were “under lock and key” in Keshpur, Garbeta, Goaltore, Chandrakona and Pingla.

At the last state committee meeting in December, the CPM leadership had underscored the need to go back to villages and stand by the cadres allegedly under attack from suspected Trinamul activists.

“If our cadres continue facing attacks and we only keep issuing statements from Alimuddin Street, there won’t be any solution. That’s why Buddhada will go to West Midnapore,” CPM leader Mohammad Salim said today.

According to a CPM source, Bhattacharjee’s West Midnapore trip was also part of efforts to mobilise a decent crowd from the district for the party’s Brigade rally on February 9.