The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Victory or not, Basu sticks to ‘beaten’ path

Calcutta, June 21: Even in the first flush of vermilion-smeared victory, the ugly head of poll-day confrontation in Salt Lake haunts the CPM.

Jyoti Basu is not letting go. The former chief minister today sought a “wider probe” into the incident in which party MP Amitava Nandi and Basu’s close aide Joykrishna Ghosh were injured in a police baton-charge while trying to enter a polling booth.

After a day’s silence, Basu opened his mouth to the embarrassment of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government and the party leadership that had supported the police action, though blaming the Trinamul Congress for sparking the trouble at a booth in Salt Lake’s ward 12.

Basu said he wanted inquiries by the government as well as the party.

“Salt Lake is a very small municipality with only 23 wards. What was the report the government had which prompted them to deploy such a large number of police personnel in this municipality' Our party must probe this. Anil (Biswas, the CPM’s state secretary) and Subhas (Chakraborty, the transport minister who has been the most critical of the administration) came to me yesterday and I had discussions with both.”

But even as he thanked voters and congratulated party activists on the poll victory, Basu insisted: “I think government and the party should both start separate inquiries.”

The party, he said, was holding an inquiry, but added: “After all, I cannot dictate to the government on this now.”

Some might see a tinge of “well, it’s not my government any more” sentiment in the statement. They could be right or wrong, but what is unmistakable is Basu’s determination to pursue the issue in favour of Chakraborty and, to a lesser extent, Nandi who are firing from his shoulder.

Earlier, Basu had said the police action could not have taken place without directions from Writers’, which could be taken to mean he was pointing at the chief minister.

Bhattacharjee had chosen not to speak on election day. Today, too, he said: “I will exercise my right to refrain from commenting on this issue.”

Biswas couldn’t evade a reply as in the hour of victory he was the party’s face and voice. Asked on STAR Ananda for a response to Basu’s demand for a “wider probe”, Biswas indulged in well-practised jugglery with words.

“Basu is a veteran and popular leader. Our party always pays heed to his advice. We often consult him'. We will discuss his suggestion.”

In the same breath, he said the CPM never interfered in administration and it was up to the government to decide if it should conduct a probe.

The statement promises nothing and leaves all possibilities open.

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