BASU PICKS UP OUST-CONSUL BATON 

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By BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Calcutta
  • Published 8.08.00
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Calcutta, Aug. 8 :     The West Bengal government today stamped its seal of approval on the CPM's campaign against the US consulate with chief minister Jyoti Basu saying he would shortly write a letter to the Prime Minister seeking action against the consul-general for prying into the internal affairs of the state. "The US consulate here has transgressed the bounds of diplomatic propriety as it has been meddling in our internal affairs. It must be advised not to interfere in Indian politics. I hope the Centre will initiate action in this regard," Basu said tonight. Basu said he had no reservation about diplomats and foreign government officials touring areas torn by natural calamity but he made it clear that their undeclared visits to political flash points would be opposed. "Such visits are unethical," he added. Basu joined forces with other leaders of the CPM, saying he supported their demand that Christopher Sandrolini, the US consul-general in Calcutta, be removed for sending analysts to Nanoor where 11 people were massacred. "I am in full agreement with the position taken by my party leaders", the chief minister said, pointing out that the US was known to have meddled in the past in the affairs of communist-ruled Bengal. "It is nothing new for them (US)... Daniel Patrick Moynihan (former US ambassador to India) had confessed that they had twice taken an active role in dislodging the communists from power in Kerala and Bengal," Basu said. Basu's hard-hitting statement is being perceived as an extension of CPM state secretary Anil Biswas' tirade against Sandrolini for sending the analysts to Nanoor for a situation report. Biswas had charged Sandrolini with snooping around in the state and had asked party MP Biplab Dasgupta to bring it to the notice of the Prime Minister and the external affairs minister. Biswas kept up his offensive today as well. "Last Sunday, Daniel Harsh, an administrative officer, had visited Nanoor. What was the purpose of this visit?" Biswas asked. "The issue is serious and we politicians know how to tackle this," he added, dropping hints that the party would launch an agitation if no action was taken. CPM insiders, however, indicated that another opinion exists in the party that the controversy may adversely affect the flow of foreign investment into Bengal if it was allowed to snowball. After the CPM boycotted Bill Clinton's visit to India, there were reports that US investors were distancing themselves from Bengal - a fallout that matched a forecast made by party leader Somnath Chatterjee. The state also condemned the visit of US consul officials to Nanoor. "We must condemn the massacre in Nanoor but we are against any sort of interference by the American lobby," said state BJP president Asim Ghosh.