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CPM search for fresh blood

Calcutta, Aug. 11: The problems of ageing and poor health are not only plaguing the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government but also the CPM leadership in Bengal.

The party has decided to induct new members into the state secretariat in a bid to rejuvenate its organisation before it faces a resurgent Opposition in the 2011 Assembly polls. Sources said the August 1-2 state committee meeting had approved the decision to revamp the organisation.

The death of transport minister Subhas Chakraborty has created a vacancy in the secretariat but more than one new face will be inducted to ensure “agility and mobility”, a party leader said. Chakraborty and former MP Mohammad Salim got into the body last year.

“We need to promote younger people in the leadership as some of the secretariat members are now old and ailing. Also, new faces are required to share the organisational responsibilities of the chief minister and some other senior ministers who would focus more on the government’s course correction ahead of the Assembly polls,” said a senior CPM leader.

The senior-most secretariat member after 95-year-old Jyoti Basu, who is unable to go to the party office anymore, is octogenarian Benoy Konar, who needs frequent hospitalisation.

Although much junior to them, industries minister Nirupam Sen, housing minister Gautam Deb and Citu state president Shyamal Chakraborty are also not well. The secretariat members are in charge of the organisation in specific districts, some of them handling more than one.

The process to pick the new faces has begun with state party secretary Biman Bose, Bhattacharjee and Sen — all politburo members — expected to reach a “preliminary consensus” before placing the list in the full secretariat.

Senior Calcutta leader Rabin Deb, land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah, former Lok Sabha MPs Hannan Mollah, Tarit Topdar and Sujan Chakraborty and former Rajya Sabha member Nilotpal Basu are among the names circulating inside the party as the likely new faces.

Deb and Mollah’s names had come up last time too. But the latter’s discord with Bhattacharjee and Sen over land acquisition, which he believed had cost the Left traditional farmer votes, might mar his prospects. Mollah is believed to have told the brass he wants to be relieved of his government job for the sake of the party.

As the leadership appears keen to tap the popularity of the late Subhas Chakraborty, leaders known to be close to him are likely to find berths, sources said. Elderly district secretaries like Purulia’s Nakul Mahato, Hooghly’s Binod Das and South 24 Parganas’ Santimoy Bhattacharjee are also likely to be replaced.

Smarting under its worst ever poll debacle, the party desperately needs to pull up its socks, particularly in the city and its adjoining districts, where it failed to win a single Lok Sabha seat. But it could be easier said than done as the recent shuffle in the government revealed. Several ailing ministers had to be retained because of factional pressures.

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