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Sen on lips, Seth fires CPM class war salvo
- Upper classes dominate party leadership, believes rebel group of Lakshman and Rezzak

Calcutta, Jan. 15: Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen, revered by Left veterans like Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, was invoked today by a CPM leader who has fallen from grace in the party after being accused in a slew of criminal cases.

Former MP Lakshman Seth referred to an interview of Sen, which appeared in Anandabazar Patrika on January 8, to train guns on Alimuddin Street and demand a change in the leadership.

Echoing what Sen had said in the interview, Seth criticised the dominance of the upper classes in the CPM leadership.

“Amartya Sen’s writings have inspired and enlightened me. The tallest economist in the world has correctly said that the upper classes dominate the Left leadership. I agree with his observation,” Seth told journalists after coming out of a Tamluk court, where he had gone for a hearing of the 2007 Nandigram armed recapture case. Seth is one of the prime accused in the case.

Asked if the dominance of the upper classes in the Left could be viewed as its weakness, Sen had said: “It’s not that good thinking cannot come from the upper classes. Karl Marx, Gramsci, Rajani Palme Dutt — all of them came from upper classes. But the absence of class variations lead to political weaknesses that may affect the understanding of where the majority is suffering and in which direction the focus should be made.”

Seth is not the first CPM leader to criticise the perceived class bias of the party’s top leadership. Rebel MLA Abdur Rezzak Mollah had also accused the leadership several times of “upper class bias”, advocating the need for “dark, young boys” to be brought to the forefront to take the organisation forward.

The CPM has also drawn criticism for poor representation of women in the party’s highest decision-making bodies such as the central committee and the politburo.

Sources in the CPM said Seth and Mollah, both of whom are sidelined in the party, were part of the same rebel group that has been critical of the Left for its successive electoral debacles.

Talking about the role of the Left in the difficult times it was facing, Sen, too, had been critical of the Left’s obsession with American imperialism.

Although Seth didn’t broach this issue, sources in the CPM said Sen’s observations had become a talking point in the party. The fear of US imperialism was one of the reasons for the Left walking out of the UPA I government after the India-US nuclear deal.

“We (referring to the Left) are still clinging on to American imperialism and it continues to be the target. Disregarding the international reality, we are waging a proxy war with American imperialism. But this is not our main problem,” Sen had said in the interview.

Such criticism of the CPM’s political line usually draws a sharp rebuttal from party ideologues, which are published in the party mouthpieces. But Sen’s comments have not evoked any reaction from either AK Gopalan Bhavan in Delhi or Alimuddin Street in Calcutta.

A few months ago, an article by former finance minister and economist Ashok Mitra criticising the Left had drawn flak from CPM central committee leader Gautam Deb in Ganashakti.

“The silence on Sen’s comments means the party is not willing to pick up an ideological debate with him. Sen had made it clear that the country would not be better without a strong Left voice. But if discredited leaders like Seth start using Sen’s argument to criticise the leadership, it causes embarrassment,” a CPM state committee member said.