BENGAL POLITICS: Somnath speaks, Karat skips – Jyoti Basu’s unjust and parochial policies no more universal ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
July 8: CPM general secretary Prakash Karat today skipped the Jyoti Basu memorial lecture delivered by expelled veteran Somnath Chatterjee, underscoring the rift between the party’s Bengal unit and the central leadership.
Fellow politburo members Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat also stayed away from the event on the Bengal Assembly premises to mark the 96th birth anniversary of the late patriarch. All three leaders had been invited by Bengal Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim.
While Yechury and Brinda were both learnt to be in Delhi, Karat was out of station on party work. None could be reached for comment but sources said Karat was against attending any event where Chatterjee, whom he had expelled for not toeing the party line on the nuclear deal, was an invitee.
Party sources, however, confirmed that Karat would attend the birth centenary celebrations of ideologue Promode Dasgupta, starting from July 13 in Calcutta.
The decision to invite Chatterjee appears to have been deliberate on the part of the Bengal leaders, who recently disagreed with the central leaders on the wisdom of calling Monday’s bandh on the same day as the BJP.
While Karat stayed away, Chatterjee seemed to enjoy his moment, sitting beside chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who had quietly walked out of a politburo meeting that refused to exempt Bengal from the July 5 strike.
The former Lok Sabha Speaker, who unveiled a portrait of Basu by artist Wasim Kapoor, said the former chief minister was “never dogmatic” and had an “excellent personal relationship even with Opposition leaders”.
The comment could be interpreted as a dig at Karat, seen as inflexible by his critics who blame his decision to snap ties with the Congress as one of the reasons for the Bengal CPM’s successive election defeats.
Chatterjee praised Basu as the “brightest star that had shone in the country’s political firmament for a long time” and recalled how Basu had been “entreated repeatedly in 1996” to become Prime Minister.
Halim said “Jyotibabu would have become the best Prime Minister of the country”. (sic*?!!)
Bhattacharjee said Basu’s success was in being “able to lend a national dimension to the struggle waged by communists for the well-being of workers and peasants”.
State Congress chief Manas Bhuniya attended the event and also spoke on Basu. Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee stayed away despite being invited by the Speaker.
CPM keeps Durgapur but loses stranglehold – but falling, falling margins, not to worry ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
July 8: The CPM today won a fig leaf of a victory in the Durgapur I bypoll, the rare triumph after a string of reverses elsewhere diminished by a steep fall in the margin.
The CPM did manage to hold on to the seat it had never lost since 1977 but its margin plunged from 41,000 in 2006 to 8,867 votes now. Compared even with the Assembly segment lead of more than 16,000 votes in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the party has lost votes. This means the erosion has worsened from last year.
Delimitation, which nibbled away some rural areas where the CPM was unassailable earlier, must have played some part but the fact remains that the party could not stem the slide even though the lone bypoll had given it the opportunity to concentrate all its firepower on the contest.
However, there are lessons for the Trinamul Congress and the Congress. The results underscore the need for both the parties to put up a united fight, with the Assembly polls round the corner. The parties had failed to stitch an alliance before the May civic polls. But they fought together in Durgapur this time, a probable reason for the slide in the CPM’s vote count.
The Durgapur bypoll was necessitated by the death of former power minister Mrinal Banerjee in February. Banerjee had won the seat by a margin of 41,000 votes in 2006. This time, the CPM’s Archana Bhattacharya won by only 8,867 votes.
Bhattacharya, who defeated the Congress’s Bansi Badan Karmakar, said today: “I dedicate my win to our dear and respected leader Jyoti Basu and of course to the people who didn’t let us down amid the strong anti-Left tide.’’
However, the Congress was quick to claim “moral victory” as the CPM’s winning margin had gone down.
“We think our party has won a moral victory in the bypoll because the CPM won by only 8,867 votes. The figure is about one-fifth of the CPM’s 2006 victory margin and almost half of the Lok Sabha lead the Left had in 2009. We could have fared better had there been no bandh on the day of the polls (July 5),” said state Congress president Manas Bhuniya.
He alleged that several of the Congress’s “traditional voters” were not allowed to enter the polling booths by “muscle-flexing CPM goons”.
Echoing Bhuniya, Trinamul leader Partha Chatterjee said “we could have easily won the seat if the CPM had not called the bandh”.
Trinamul sources said Mamata Banerjee congratulated the Congress candidate for “putting up a brave fight against the CPM nominee”.
In 2009, the CPM had won from the industrial belt of Burdwan, which had resisted the winds of change and stood by the party. The Left had won the Durgapur-Burdwan parliamentary seat by a margin of more than one lakh votes.
Amid the losses the CPM suffered in the agricultural belt of Burdwan in the civic polls this time, the party managed to retain the Raniganj and Jamuria civic bodies in the district’s industrial belt.
Amal Haldar, the CPM’s Burdwan unit secretary, said the residents of Durgapur had gifted the win to “our beloved Jyoti Basu on his birth anniversary’’. “The fight was tough as the two Opposition parties were together. But the people of Durgapur wanted a change in the call for change,” Haldar said.
Karmakar, however, blamed the CPM bandh for the loss, echoing the Congress-Trinamul line. “People couldn’t come to the polling booths because of the bandh. The CPM also forced many voters in the coal belt of Durgapur to stay indoors. But we are confident of winning the 2011 polls,’’ Karmakar added.
Trinamul heckles Halim – political culture of double standards, getting any better or more arrogant ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Calcutta, July 8: Over a dozen Trinamul Congress MLAs today gheraoed the Speaker in his Assembly chamber for half an hour after snatching his microphone in the House and launching a tirade against him for rejecting a privilege motion against the chief minister.
The MLAs, led by leader of the Opposition Partha Chatterjee, started the ruckus in the House after Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim rejected the privilege motion against Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, which Trinamul had demanded because “the chief minister had misled the House over the murder of CPM leader Ananda Das”. (what about Madan Tamang ?!!)
Bhattacharjee had removed the Birbhum police chief following the murder of Das in Nanoor, saying the cop had “failed to handle the situation”. But the home secretary had said the SP’s transfer was a routine affair. (and what about IG KL Tamta ?!!)
However, Halim rejected the privilege motion, saying the House would give credence to what a “member (the chief minister) had said in the House rather than what a bureaucrat had said outside”.
Following the ruling, Trinamul’s Bobby Hakim snatched the Speaker’s microphone and used it to announce that Halim was “behaving in a partisan manner” and “destroying the parliamentary system”. Other Trinamul MLAs joined in.
After Halim left the House, asking the CPM’s Rabin Mondal to carry on the proceedings, the Trinamul MLAs followed him into his chamber. They barged into the room, ignoring the requests of the security personnel.
“Speaker sir, you are acting at the behest of the Alimuddin Street. You rejected the motion to save the chief minister from an embarrassing situation. It appears that you are behaving as a leader of a gang of miscreants,” Chatterjee told Halim.
“Don’t indulge in rowdyism. You will have to accept the Speaker’s ruling in the House, ” Halim shot back, prompting the Trinamul legislators to shout slogans.
“Sir, you are disrespecting the Speaker’s chair because you are more a CPM MLA from Entally than an impartial guardian of this august House,” a Trinamul MLA said.
The MLAs dispersed after half an hour.
Later, Halim told reporters the Trinamul legislators “were belligerent in nature when they called on me in my Assembly chamber to protest the rejection of the privilege motion”. “The manner in which they laid siege to my chamber is unheard of.”
The Speaker could not recount any instance “of such rowdyism” in the recent past.
At a news conference, Chatterjee accused the security personnel at the Speaker’s chamber of “assaulting” the MLAs “staging a peaceful protest”.