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Look who’s at BJP door

Calcutta, July 4: The CPM today walked into enemy territory for the second time in a month, prompting howls of protest from a section of Left leaders who said wrong signals were being sent to the depleted ranks.

Leaders of a CPM-affiliated college teachers’ organisation today visited the state BJP headquarters in Calcutta to meet HRD minister Smriti Irani. Left members this newspaper spoke to could not recall the last time Front leaders had gone to a BJP office.

Debasish Sarkar, the general secretary of the CPM-backed West Bengal Government College Teachers’ Association, reached the BJP office this afternoon with some of his colleagues and met Smriti.

Sarkar defended his decision to visit the state BJP headquarters near Central Avenue. “We had sought an appointment with the Union HRD minister. The minister was in the BJP office and we were told to meet her there. What’s wrong with that? Can’t we raise our demands before a central minister? Why is a hue and cry being raised over our visit to the BJP office?” Sarkar said.

He said the delegation discussed issues such as the constitution of a national education commission and more government funds to set up colleges and universities. “We also drew her attention to instances of excess admissions in private BEd colleges in Bengal,” Sarkar said.

An RSP leader said the visit would send a wrong message to Left leaders in the districts at a time they were fighting to keep the flock together in the face of defections to the BJP.

“These things are not done. We consider the BJP a big threat to the secular polity of our country. This man (Sarkar) could have sent a deputation to Delhi to meet the HRD minister. Why pick the BJP office? This has unnecessarily lent a political colour to the issue and embarrassed our cadres,” said the leader, a former MP.

The RSP leader said the teachers’ organisation should have given a thought to how the BJP was “luring away Left cadres in the villages”.

A CPM leader recalled the flak the Left had to face from within its ranks for a Front delegation’s visit to Nabanna to meet chief minister Mamata Banerjee on June 9. Mamata had contested the Left’s claim of “Trinamul terror” and lectured the team on keeping the Front’s flock together in the face of a BJP onslaught.

Asked if it had been prudent or proper for the teachers’ association to go to the state BJP headquarters, CPM central committee member and MP Mohammad Salim sought to distance the party from the visit.

“I don’t know why they went to the BJP office. But certainly, they were not representatives of the CPM today. They were not carrying the party’s brief. They may have gone there in the capacity of members of a government teachers’ association,” Salim said.

Another CPM leader said the visit was all the more unnecessary because the BJP had eaten into the Left’s votes in the Lok Sabha elections.