The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM skirts teachers in candidate hunt

Malda, Feb. 11: With the panchayat elections barely three months away, the ruling CPM has imposed a number of “conditions” on its district committees for picking the “right candidates”.

Candidates above 25 years are a no-no. Those elected twice are out, too. Only those “untainted” with corruption are to be chosen for the crucial panchayat polls slated for May.

In the written directive, called “guidelines,” sent to the party’s Malda district committee, CPM politburo member Biman Bose, who is also chairman of the Left Front, asked the panel to “carefully” choose the candidates. “They should be between the ages of 21 and 25 years and hard working. They should have contact with the public,” the directive noted.

Bose made it clear that the candidates would have to be free of corruption charges. “People should have faith in them.”

In a major shift from its stance in the past, the party leadership asked the district committees not to choose teachers as candidates. The departure could antagonise the strong teachers’ lobby in the party as many of them were elected to the three-tier panchayats in the past.

The party’s decision reflects its hardline stance on the teachers, who appeared to have slipped from being “an asset” to “a burden” to it in recent times. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had taken teachers to task for tutoring students at home for money. He had asked them to “spend more time with students” at schools.

Bose asked the committees to “take into account” the views of the party’s supporters and residents before selecting the candidates. He also made it necessary for the party to discuss the candidates at the Left Front’s district committees before finalising their candidacy.

The Front chairman said those elected twice to the panchayats be dropped in favour of “fresh and younger” candidates.

The district committees, including Malda, were asked to “get cracking” right away and choose the “winnable” candidates for the panchayats. The party, leading the ruling coalition in the state for more than two-and-a-half decades, has been viewing panchayats as its wellspring of power.

“We will prove our strength again in the panchayat elections,” Jeeban Moitra, CPM Malda district secretary, said.

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