April 15: The CPM’s candidate for the Tamluk Lok Sabha seat and several other East Midnapore leaders are praising expelled former strongman Lakshman Seth while campaigning, prompting many to wonder if the party has calculated the trade-off between the potential gains and losses from such a move.
Seth, a former Tamluk MP and Haldia strongman who was expelled last month for anti-party activities, used to hold sway in the constituency, which includes the Haldia industrial town, till a few years ago.
But since 2009, when he lost the Tamluk Lok Sabha seat to Trinamul’s Subhendu Adhikari, the ruling party has gained considerably in the area banking on the “anti-Seth sentiment”.
“I don’t know why the party leaders are mentioning a discredited leader like Seth while campaigning,” a CPM leader in Calcutta wondered.
The East Midnapore unit of the CPM, however, said praising Seth was a strategy to “appease and persuade” the followers of the expelled leader to join the campaign for the Lok Sabha polls.
“Many Seth loyalists are unhappy with his expulsion. We apprehend that they may become inactive before the polls and may not support our candidate. So if we speak well about Seth, it may pacify many of his followers and prompt them to work for our candidate,” a prominent CPM leader in East Midnapore said.
The leader refused comment when asked if the party had worked out the benefits and damage that could arise out of making references to Seth, who has embarrassed the party on several occasions since his alleged involvement in the Nandigram fiasco.
The CPM’s Tamluk candidate, Ibrahim Ali, said Seth was a “father figure” to him.
Prasanta Pradhan, the CPM’s stand-in secretary in East Midnapore, said Seth still had “good following” in the district. “If our candidate does not shower praise on Lakshman while campaigning, it would be difficult for the party to face the election. Many supporters of Lakshman are likely to be rejuvenated if they hear our candidate speaking well about the expelled leader,” he said.