His CPM master's confidential assistants

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 8.05.13
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Calcutta, May 7: The CPM leadership is facing questions from within on why the party overlooked former finance minister Asim Dasgupta’s “objection” to the continuance of Ganesh Dey, who was expelled for his alleged links with Saradha Group owner Sudipta Sen, as his confidential assistant.

Party sources said Dasgupta, known as an “honest” politician in CPM circles, had expressed to Alimuddin Street his reluctance to keep Dey as his confidential assistant way back in 2008.

The then finance minister had apparently told the party leadership that Dey had links with sham companies such as Saradha and had amassed assets disproportionate to his known sources of income through businesses run by his wife, a source said.

“Asimda had always been very conscious about his image when he was finance minister. He would brook no nonsense if told that somebody was using his name to dole out favours…. When Asimda came to know about Ganesh’s misdeeds, he suggested that he be disallowed from continuing as confidential assistant,” a CPM state committee member said today.

Dey, who was a CPM local committee member from Khardah, “survived” because of his connections with some senior leaders in the party’s North 24-Parganas unit, especially former Dum Dum MP Amitabha Nandy, the sources said. Dasgupta used to represent the Khardah seat.

“Now, our leaders are facing questions from within the party on why no action was taken earlier against Ganesh so that the embarrassment could have been avoided,” the CPM state committee member said.

Dey was expelled from the party on Saturday after he was interrogated by police for his alleged links with the Saradha Group. “But the action has come too late in the day…. Ideally, Ganesh should not have been thrust on Asimda, who did not want him,” a source said.

Forcing ministers to appoint party nominees as their personal staff at Writers’ Buildings had for long been the CPM’s practice, which was started by then party secretary Promode Dasgupta (PDG) after the Left Front came to power in 1977.

“PDG’s idea was to have party control over the actions of ministers. Not that our ministers routed every move through their party-nominated confidential assistants. But the confidential assistants were in a position to access most of the information contained in files that the ministers handled or signed. The information was passed onto Alimuddin Street,” a former confidential assistant to a CPM minister said.

These party appointees even had their organisations — known as party cells — and they wielded much political clout as most ministers never dared to go against the party’s diktat.

In 1977, then chief minister Jyoti Basu had made Joykrishna Ghosh his confidential assistant as Basu had the stature and power to assert himself in the party and select the person of his choice for the post. Promode Dasgupta, who had strained ties with Basu, then created the post of political secretary. PDG appointed Sankar Gupta as Basu’s political secretary.

Gupta, who was a student leader alongside current CPM state secretary Biman Bose, was “thrust on Basu as PDG’s partyman”, a source said.

Later, the party replaced Gupta with Ashok Bose. In the late nineties, the post of political secretary to the chief minister was held by Alimuddin Street nominee Sujit Poddar.

“However, Jyotibabu trusted Joykrishna the most. After PDG’s death in 1982, there was nobody in the party who could match Jyotibabu’s stature. He ensured that Joykrishna enjoyed much more power than the party-appointed political secretaries,” a CPM leader said.

Even Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, despite his “strong likes and dislikes”, had to succumb to Alimuddin Street’s pressure during his stints as information and cultural affairs minister and chief minister.

According to a CPM leader, Prashanta Banerjee, who now works as a whole timer at Alimuddin Street and contributes to party mouthpiece People’s Democracy in the name of B. Prashant, was appointed Bhattacharjee’s confidential assistant when he was information and cultural affairs minister. The move, sources said, was not to Bhattacharjee’s liking.

Later, Banerjee was dropped at Bhattacharjee’s instance but the party made Partha Raha his new confidential assistant. “That too wasn’t liked by Buddhada,” the leader said.

When Bhattacharjee became chief minister, the party made then CPM-backed employees’ co-ordination committee secretary Moloy Roy his confidential assistant.

“Moloybabu got involved in all sorts of controversies that put the party in a spot,” a source said.

During his second stint as chief minister, Bhattacharjee prevailed on the party to make then Ganashakti journalist Joydip Mukherjee his confidential assistant. The party had wanted to appoint Avik Dutta to the post. Mukherjee is now the confidential assistant to leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra.

“Asim Dasgupta couldn’t do what Jyotibabu and Buddhababu had done and that’s why his name has been dragged into the controversy even though people know about his impeccable track record,” a party insider said.

In February, chief minister Mamata Banerjee did away with the post of confidential assistant and replaced it with executive assistant.