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Just what party didn’t need

Calcutta, Feb. 3: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who had once rued the CPM’s contribution of “gherao” to the dictionary, has himself added a word to the communist lexicon — mistake.

The former chief minister’s public admission of CPM cadres’ involvement in the Netai killings has caused resentment in party circles, with a section saying he could have avoided causing embarrassment to the Left in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

“Whatever Buddhada said is right. But the demands of real politik are different. Now that the Lok Sabha polls are round the corner, such a candid admission on Netai need not have been made. Even if he felt that admission of guilt would help our party, we cannot deny that it gives ammunition to Trinamul,” a CPM state committee member said today.

At a rally in West Midnapore yesterday, the former chief minister had said CPM cadres had made a “grave mistake” in Netai, where firing from a party leader’s house in 2011 had killed nine persons. “This should not have been done. I am admitting the mistake,” Bhattacharjee had said.

Like on earlier occasions, the CPM politburo member’s admission of mistakes has made a section in his party unhappy. He had earlier acknowledged errors such as the police firing in Nandigram and leaders’ “high-handedness”.

At a business summit in 2007, Bhattacharjee had admitted to “serious mistakes”, saying: “Sometimes I say our contribution to the Oxford dictionary is ‘gherao’.”

Leaders of CPM labour arm Citu, which had for years used gherao as a potent tool, had questioned the need for such statements. Bhattacharjee had met with resistance within the party when he tried to persuade leaders not to call bandhs or strikes.

In the chronicle of errors, Bhattacharjee has so far confined himself to “mistakes”. He has steered clear of the dreaded B-word — unlike Jyoti Basu whose expression “historic blunder” will forever be yoked to the party. However, Basu was making an unmistakable accusation, not a confession, while referring to the decision that denied him prime ministership in 1996.

The nine deaths in the firing from the house of Rathin Dandapat, a CPM local committee member, had been condemned in almost all internal meetings of the party. But most CPM leaders had avoided broaching in public the murders in which 20 party activists were accused.

According to a state committee leader, the CPM has been asking the eight absconding accused to surrender after the Lok Sabha elections so that they have the option of obtaining bail before the next Assembly polls.

The leader said the plan had suffered a setback because of Bhattacharjee’s comments yesterday.

Trinamul leaders have seized the opportunity to tell the CPM to ensure that the key accused — Dandapat, Anuj Pande and his brother Dalim — surrender.

“Buddhada has revived an old case,” the CPM state committee member said.

He said Bhattacharjee’s comments would affect the already sagging morale of cadres in West Midnapore.

“No one is condoning what happened in Netai. But this is not the time to seek apology,” said a district leader.

Another section in the CPM backed Bhattacharjee’s comments. “After a CPM politburo meeting in Calcutta in the aftermath of the Netai firing, (party general secretary) Prakash Karat had publicly said the incident should not have happened,” said another state secretariat member.

“Buddhada may have taken a cue from Karat’s public condemnation of the killings. I don’t think Buddhada did anything wrong,” he added.