Calcutta, May 19: In a rare public introspection, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said some degeneration had taken place in the CPM because of its enormous growth in 26 years.
“I am afraid a large number of unwanted, undesirable people, who, in the ordinary run of things, cannot hope to be seen anywhere near an ideology-driven party like ours, are not only coming closer, they are actually gaining entry into the party structure,” he said.
Bhattacharjee’s statement rekindled memories of the late Benoy Choudhury’s (at the time second only to Jyoti Basu) public lamentation in 1995: “Ours is a government run by contractors.”
In a way, it was also confirmation of what the Opposition describes as the CPM’s “dark underbelly”.
“Who are these unwanted people, what are they doing in our party' I have asked the party to drive such elements out. We have nothing to do with them,” Bhattacharjee said, addressing the charge that the communists had used violence to win the just-concluded panchayat election.
The immediate context of his unexpected self-criticism was the attack by CPM supporters on Union minister Tapan Sikdar while he was campaigning. Occurring close to the election, the incident had prompted the chief minister to express “personal regrets” and the BJP-led Centre to seek an explanation from the state government. Bhattacharjee and the CPM were then forced to undertake a damage-control exercise.
“What happened during the panchayat election was very painful to me,” Bhattacharjee said.
“We had received adequate forces from the Centre and a neighbouring state, but we could not prevent the recurrence of violence. I regret the loss of lives,” he said.
During campaigning and on polling day, over 40 people died.
He added that the CPM was not “absolutely disciplined” or “without trouble-makers” during the election.
The chief minister’s party reserved comment, but its leaders were in discussion.
State party secretary Anil Biswas, who had carried out a large-scale, but not too well known, purge over the past few years, was not readily available for comment.
Sources close to him said: “There is complete unanimity between the government and the party on the point Buddhababu has raised. In fact, we are the only party that actually takes measures against unwanted elements. For a host of compulsions, however, the cleansing cannot be faster than what it is now.”
Bhattacharjee becomes the third in a line of CPM leaders who, having perceived an ideological and moral erosion, have spoken out against the trend.
Like Benoy Choudhury and former Tripura chief minister Nripen Chakraborty before him, Bhattacharjee chose to go public on the state of the CPM outside the confines of party forums, asking the leadership to put in place corrective measures.
Chakraborty’s criticisms in the late eighties had earned him the party’s wrath, for the act had seemed at that point a direct challenge to a section of the leadership, as a result of which he had to recede into the background.
Choudhury’s outburst, too, did not go down well with the leadership of the day, but he did not suffer any programmed marginalisation.