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Debate after axe: Will CPM? Won’t CPM?

- Mollah expulsion sparks debate on whether party will take stern steps on other fronts

Calcutta, Feb. 27: The summary expulsion of Abdur Rezzak Mollah from the CPM ahead of the Lok Sabha polls has stirred a debate in the party’s inner circles on whether the stern action against the veteran leader is the beginning of a long-due course correction.

While a section thinks the leadership wants to take corrective measures irrespective of the possible political impact, a few others believe the action against Mollah was an aberration as he had been attacking top leaders.

The beleaguered Alimuddin Street brass, however, can find consolation from the fact that an overwhelming majority thinks that the action against Mollah was justified as he had breached party discipline “in every way possible”.

But the debate starts thereafter as the decision to expel Mollah has brought to the fore some questions that the leadership had successfully swept under the carpet.

“It is good that the leaders did not think about narrow political gains by being soft on Rezzakda as he had been the minority face of the party. But the question is, whether the leadership can take such tough decisions on other issues as well,” a CPM leader said.

According to him, Mollah might have pushed the envelope by being too vocal against the leadership, particularly former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and CPM state secretary Biman Bose.

“There are several other issues that need to be sorted out. We hope the leaders will take a bold stand on them, too,” a state committee member said.

The party’s immediate focus, according to sources, is on how it will handle Lakshman Seth, the former MP who has been an embarrassment for the party since the 2007 Nandigram episode, which cost the CPM dear.

A land acquisition notice issued by the Haldia Development Authority under Seth’s stewardship had sparked the Nandigram movement that culminated in the police firing that killed 14 persons on March 14, 2007. Seth is also the prime accused in the armed recapture of Nandigram in November that year. The CPM has set up a panel to probe charges of financial irregularities against an NGO the East Midnapore leader heads.

At a programme on Sunday where he shared the dais with Mollah, Seth had accused the CPM leadership of acting in an “undemocratic and autocratic” way by dropping him from the state committee and ordering the probe against him. Mollah had floated an outfit for the minorities and Dalits at the programme, a move seen as one of the main reasons for his expulsion.

The fact that Seth is not in the good books of politburo member Bhattacharjee, who has been focusing on organisational activities, is an open secret in the CPM, but many leaders are wondering whether the party would take action against the former MP.

“There are several considerations as Seth still holds sway over the party’s East Midnapore unit and any strong action may be counterproductive ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. It seems the party has adopted a wait-and-watch policy and may give Seth another chance by either censuring or suspending him,” a CPM source said.

If such action is taken, Alimuddin Street will run the risk of coming under attack from several district units that have been criticised by the leadership for poor performance in successive elections.

The top leadership, however, thinks otherwise as it sees a pattern in recent developments such as Bhattacharjee’s admission that the firing by cadres in Netai was a mistake, the inquiry against Seth and Mollah’s expulsion.

“The attempt is to improve the image of the party. It may result in some short-term losses, but it will finally reap dividends,” a CPM leader said.

This view does not have the support of a section of the party. This section is drawing attention to the fact that Bhattacharjee had made a mistake by raking up the Netai issue before the Lok Sabha elections but no action was taken against him.

The apparent “immunity” from action enjoyed by “some” leaders is another point of discussion in the CPM.

In the past two years, most CPM state committee meetings have witnessed debates on the reasons behind the successive poll debacles. In most cases, the state leadership blamed “organisational lapses” in the districts.

The argument that the state leadership and its political line had also contributed to the failure — an issue highlighted by Mollah in several meetings — was allegedly ignored.

“If the leaders are thinking about course correction and are willing to take tough decisions, they should also introspect,” a district leader said.

Mollah echoed the same feeling during a news conference in Calcutta this afternoon. “I am no longer with the CPM. But I must say, the party should rectify itself from the top — I mean the politburo.”