The Telegraph
Wednesday , April 4 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Decision on Buddha on congress table

Kozhikode, April 3: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is giving the CPM party congress at Kozhikode a miss, but he will figure during deliberations as his request to opt out of the politburo and the central committee would be discussed there in the next few days.

The former Bengal chief minister had written to CPM general secretary Prakash Karat last October with the request. The party congress will now take the final call.

“The party congress may or may not accept Buddhababu’s request. But the congress will be the final authority to take a call,” a CPM central committee leader of Kerala said today. “There is also a possibility of Buddhababu being made a special invitee to the politburo.”

The six-day congress begins tomorrow at the Tagore Centenary Hall in Kozhikode with over 800 delegates scheduled to participate.

Even if Bhattacharjee’s request is accepted by the party, and he no longer continues to be a part of the politburo or the central committee, he would continue to be the public face of the CPM in Bengal. “Buddhada is the mascot of the Bengal CPM. He is our leader and there’s no doubt about that,” party central committee member Gautam Deb said to buttress this point.

According to a Bengal CPM leader, Bhattacharjee had informed the party’s central leadership in October last year that he was down with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hence it would not be possible for him to attend meetings outside Calcutta.

Since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections that saw the Left losing as many as 20 seats of its 35 in Bengal, Bhattacharjee had stopped attending politburo and central committee meetings outside Calcutta. He also stayed away from the important Hyderabad politburo and central committee meetings that were convened in July last year to analyse the reasons that led to the Left’s election debacle in Bengal and its loss of power in Kerala.

“Buddhababu had told the party leadership that he was not physically fit to attend any party meeting outside Calcutta. He is suffering from COPD. Have you seen him going outside Calcutta over the past few months?’’ a CPM leader from Calcutta, who reached Kozhikode today, asked.

Other than writing to Karat, Bhattacharjee had verbally communicated to him that his continuance in the highest two policy-making bodies of the CPM could send to the rank and file the wrong message — that even though he was not attending such meetings, he was not willing to quit.

This was especially so after last year’s electoral debacle under his leadership. “Buddhababu also told Karat that he wanted to own up moral responsibility for the CPM’s defeat after a 34-year stint in power and quit the politburo and the central committee,” a party delegate said.

But Karat and his colleagues in the politburo did not take a decision on Bhattacharjee’s October 2011 “request’’.

Rather, they persuaded him to stay put on the grounds that the party needed him in these bodies to rebuild the Bengal organisation “in these difficult times’’, said a source.

In a move to accord importance to Bhattacharjee’s stature in the party, the CPM general secretary flew down to Calcutta in March and held a three-hour discussion with him at Alimuddin Street to finalise the draft ideological document that has been prepared by politburo members Sitaram Yechury, S. Ramachandran Pillai and Nirupam Sen. The draft will be placed at the party congress for approval.

It was learnt that Bhattacharjee made certain observations on the advancement of the Latin American Left and how things were proceeding in communist China. He wanted them to be incorporated in the ideological draft.