The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Basu compels party to play umpire

Calcutta, July 31: Jyoti Basu today said the CPM secretariat would discuss Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s charges against Jagmohan Dalmiya, pitchforking a battle that has so far been confined to personalities to the party platform.

Often credited with mentoring the careers of both, though in different fields and at different points over the past couple of decades, the former chief minister called for a fuller discussion this Friday “since our chief minister has levelled some charges against Dalmiya”.

“This is a serious matter and we have to discuss the charges,” Basu said, adding that he had tried to contact the party’s state secretary, Biman Bose.

The ramifications of Basu’s statement did not take long to sink in. “For the first time, Buddhababu becomes publicly answerable to his party brass on the Dalmiya issue,” a senior Left Front leader said.

Simultaneously, it gives Bhattacharjee an opportunity to explain why he considers Dalmiya “evil”.

Since the general wisdom is that Bhattacharjee has mounted the campaign against Dalmiya because of his belief that he had short-changed the government on the leather complex, a contract given under Basu, there is a hint that somehow in all this the current and past chief ministers are on opposite sides.

What has strengthened this impression is the fact that Bhattacharjee went ahead in spite of Basu openly denouncing the candidature of the police commissioner, Prasun Mukherjee, against Dalmiya. Even today Basu said: “He is not our party’s candidate.”

No sooner than Bhattacharjee’s whiplash comments on Dalmiya began flashing on television, in one swift stroke Basu had the issue transferred from the domain of Writers’ Buildings to the realm of the party.

Till now, a silent CPM has been watching with unease the unusual turns the cricket association elections ' a largely unnoticed event otherwise ' have been taking. But Basu’s call has left the party with few options.

“I have explained several times that the party is not interested in the CAB election, the candidatures of Dalmiya and others. The party is no way linked with them,” Bose iterated.

Then, he added: “But if Jyotibabu wants a discussion, it is different.”

Observers say that developments on the CAB elections do not constitute an insular event. Earlier, during ministry-making, Bhattacharjee did not get the team he wanted for a combination of factors, one of which was pressure from Basu, at times joined by Bose.

Many in the leadership also did not like the credit for the electoral triumph being laid at the foot of the chief minister, stressing that it was a victory for the party and not an individual.

It was also surprising that Bhattacharjee appointed Subhas Chakraborty, a Basu acolyte and never his admirer, to negotiate with Dalmiya, in which he failed ' intentionally or otherwise.

Chakraborty said today: “Whatever the chief minister has said are his personal views. However, my heart couldn’t accept his diktat.”

By openly attacking Dalmiya, Bhattacharjee has made himself somewhat vulnerable in the party and outside as the widespread belief is that he has overdone the whole thing.

Former chief minister and Congress leader Siddhartha Shankar Ray went as far as to call him “crazy”. Subrata Mukherjee, another Congressman, said: “Buddhababu has lost balance' He has no business asking Dalmiya to leave CAB. We want him and his party to leave government, will he do it'”

Those charitable to the chief minister said: “He is an extremely emotional person.”

A CPM legislator said: “It is very difficult for him to stomach the humiliation he has suffered after Dalmiya won the CAB poll defying the chief minister’s expressed instruction to step aside.”

The MLA blamed some of Bhattacharjee’s “sports advisers” for egging him on.

Many regretted the absence of Anil Biswas, the former party secretary who had an untimely death earlier this year. They said that Biswas, adept at managing inner contradictions, would never have allowed the conflict to spin out of control.

So far, the central leadership hasn’t said a word. If the battle within the party over the CAB poll threatens to get out of hand, it could step in and ask Bhattacharjee to hold his silence. In a choice between Bhattacharjee and the other side, however, it is hard to see it going against the chief minister.

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