The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Politburo not to pluck thorn
- Ministry decision left to state unit

New Delhi, May 13: The CPM politburo has left it to the Bengal state committee to take a decision on the fate of two senior cabinet ministers, Asim Dasgupta and Subhas Chakraborty.

Opinion is divided within the party on whether Dasgupta should be shifted from finance, a berth he has held for 20 years, to another portfolio like education.

On Chakraborty, whose outbursts have often landed the government in a fix, the polarisation is sharper with some leaders wanting to keep him out of the new ministry.

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat had an informal discussion with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and state secretary Biman Bose this morning before the politburo meeting began.

They are believed to have discussed the cabinet formation, particularly the ticklish issue of dealing with Dasgupta and Chakraborty.

The party leadership felt that the issue should be sorted out by the state committee and suggested that it should be tackled with caution. Sources indicated both ministers are likely to continue in the cabinet, though they could be shifted from their present positions.

Bhattacharjee listed before the politburo his priorities for the new innings. The chief minister said he would focus on improving the quality of education and health in his state. “We have many primary health centres and hospitals but their quality must be improved. Similarly, we have to improve the quality of education,” a source quoted Bhattacharjee as saying.

Today’s politburo meeting took place against the backdrop of the CPM’s twin triumphs in Bengal and Kerala and the afterglow of victory was visible in the demeanour of the usually poker-faced communist veterans.

Reflecting the mood, the sources said, the politburo meeting was more of a self-congratulatory session than a stock-taking exercise.

V.S. Achuthanandan, tipped to be Kerala’s next chief minister, though the central leadership has asked the state unit to make a formal announcement later, looked a picture of confidence.

Victory celebrations over, the politburo will take up the hard political business in Calcutta later this month. “The politburo will meet on May 27 and 28 in Calcutta to discuss our relations with the UPA government. The politburo will prepare a report for the central committee which will meet in Hyderabad from June 6 to June 10,” Karat said.

The party chief had said immediately after the election results that the CPM would make more aggressive interventions to shape the UPA government’s policies.

But the Centre is banking on Bhattacharjee, whose influence in the party is certain to increase in the wake of the huge Bengal mandate, to strike a more flexible working relationship with the Left.

Post-poll, too, Bhattacharjee had lived up to his pragmatic image. Today, he described himself as a “communist compromising with capitalism” to develop Bengal. “I am a communist, compromising with capitalism,” he told a television channel.

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