The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ally liquor rage erupts on CM
Buddhadeb, Guha: Culture clash

Calcutta, Feb. 2: The sniping within the Left Front on the government's decision to issue permits for 1,000 liquor shops flared today with Forward Bloc leaders tearing into the CPM and taking potshots at Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's inclination towards culture at a public rally.

Claiming that the decision 'smacks of a decadent culture', agriculture minister Kamal Guha warned: 'We will not allow any new liquor shops to function despite having valid licences. Our cadre will destroy those shops...'

Hurling a veiled barb at the chief minister, Guha, also the Bloc chairman, alleged that those busy with cultural activities in Nandan and Rabindra Sadan were not bothered about the fallout of opening new liquor shops.

'We may not intellectually match those visiting Nandan and Rabindra Sadan and talk about culture and literature, but we understand liquor shops will harm our youths and the students as well. That is why we will not sit idle if the government goes ahead with its liquor policy,' he told a moderate rally at Shahid Minar, organised by the party's youth wing.

Asked to comment, Bhattacharjee said: 'Chhoriye (leave it)'. Though the chief minister let it pass, at least for the moment, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas would not. He termed Guha's statements as 'irresponsible' and said 'the party will not be able to strengthen its organisation by criticising the CPM. We used to hear similar criticism from Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress. And see what position it is in now'.

The tussle between the two biggest constituents of the Front became clearer when Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh roared: 'Our existence in both national and Bengal politics does not depend on the mercy of anyone (read CPM). We survive because we struggle for the poor people and are loved by them.'

Bloc leaders also criticised the Front functioning and sneered that its presence was now 'confined to Alimuddin Street'.

Many in the CPM felt the outburst was prompted by insecurity among the Bloc leaders over retaining their constituencies and the need to keep the cadre engaged. They pointed out that in some pockets of north Bengal, Howrah and Purulia, they thrive by criticising the CPM.

'It is the CPM and not the Congress which is considered the main enemy by Bloc leaders in those areas,' said a CPM leader.

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