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CPM opts for Delhi choice

Calcutta, Jan. 24: The CPM has decided to name student leader Ritabrata Banerjee as its candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls, eventually settling for a choice proposed by the central leadership.

A section of the state secretariat of the CPM had preferred former finance minister Asim Dasgupta, especially since Ritabrata was part of the melee in which finance minister Amit Mitra was attacked in front of the Planning Commission office in Delhi last year.

But politburo member Sitaram Yechury had thrown his weight behind Ritabrata, the all-India general secretary of the SFI.

Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had maintained a “neutral” stand, although he had sought more than once Yechury’s “final opinion”.

The party was so divided over the issue that the state secretariat met thrice yesterday but still could not reach a consensus.

Bhattacharjee, CPM state secretary Biman Bose and leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra went into a huddle today and opted for Ritabrata, 34, to send the “right message” to the youth in Bengal.

Late this evening, Bose said after a trip to Birbhum: “We have decided on our Rajya Sabha candidate. It’s Ritabrata Banerjee.”

The Left can assure the victory of one candidate, with some votes to spare.

Those backing Asim were Dipak Dasgupta, Madan Ghosh and Nripen Chowdhury, all state secretariat members. But Bhattacharjee did not want to take chances as Yechury, who looks after the party’s student front, was “strongly backing” Ritabrata.

Yesterday, Bhattacharjee was learnt to have called up Yechury thrice to know his “final opinion”. Yechury stood his ground by suggesting Ritabrata’s name.

Bhattacharjee’s has had excellent relations with Asim. However, political compulsions forced Bhattacharjee to approve Ritabrata’s nomination. Bhattacharjee is said to be in favour of fielding Asim as a candidate in the Lok Sabha polls.

A section of the CPM said Ritabrata’s choice should not be seen as another example of Delhi-state differences. The party has been known for sending to the Rajya Sabha leaders representing frontal organisations.