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Seth rages at Gorbachevs of Bengal

Seth in Calcutta on Sunday. Picture by Anup Bhattacharya

Calcutta, Feb. 23: Lakshman Seth today said the CPM leadership had acted in an “undemocratic and autocratic” way by dropping him from the state committee and by forming a commission to probe charges of financial irregularities in an NGO he heads.

“The leadership has acted undemocratically by dropping me from the state committee. I came to know from the media that I was dropped from the state committee. This was done when I was in jail,” Seth told journalists on the sidelines of a mass convention organised by former CPM minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah at Rabindra Sadan this morning.

The former CPM MP had been incommunicado after three party leaders were assaulted in Tamluk by a mob of CPM supporters, suspected to be his loyalists. Two of the three leaders are probing the allegations against Seth’s NGO.

Seth, 64, did not address the gathering at today’s event.

He said it had been decided that those in jail in connection with “false cases” lodged by the present government would not be dropped from the party’s state committee. “But in my case, the leadership did the most undemocratic thing by dropping me from the state committee when I was in jail. This amounts to going against party discipline on the part of the leadership,” he said.

On February 18, 2012, the CPM removed Seth from its state committee, its highest decision-making body at the state level. Seth was lodged in Alipore Central Jail as an accused in the 2007 Nandigram recapture case. He got bail in July 2012.

The former CPM MP also criticised the leadership for setting up the two-member commission without his knowledge to probe alleged financial irregularities in his NGO.

“The leadership took it for granted that I was an accused in the alleged irregularities centring around my NGO. I was not informed before the inquiry commission was set up. This is gross injustice on the part of a disciplined party like ours,” he said.

He reminded the state leadership about the collapse of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. “Our leaders’ fall is imminent like that of Gorbachev if it functions in an autocratic and undemocratic manner,” he said. When asked who he had in mind when he was referring to Gorbachev, Seth left without answering.

A CPM leader said tonight that Alimuddin Street leaders “have taken strong exception to Seth’s outburst”. “We don’t expect our leaders to speak against the leadership outside the party. But Seth has violated this practice and this warrants disciplinary action,” a state committee member said. He added the matter would come up for discussion at the next secretariat meeting.

Although Seth did not name any party leader, the CPM leader said that the former Tamluk MP was targeting “Buddhada and Bimanda (Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose)” for the action taken against him.

Seth today admitted that he had expressed his resentment in a letter to the party state secretary Bose. “I wrote to our party secretary to express my resentment at the way I am being treated in the party. I also informed him that I do not want to renew my membership, which is due in March,” he said.

He denied that any of his loyalists attacked the CPM leaders in Tamluk on February 18.

A state committee member said though Seth’s criticism warranted expulsion, “it is a tough decision at this juncture because of the Lok Sabha election”. According to him, half of the 14-member East Midnapore district secretariat owes allegiance to Seth.

At the convention, Mollah, known to be a loose cannon, demanded that the party’s rectification drive “should begin from the politburo and the state secretariat”.

“Some leaders have asked for a rectification drive from the grassroots to make the party turn around after reverses in consecutive elections…. But I want the rectification to begin from the top. The politburo and the state secretariat should come under the ambit of the rectification drive,” he said.