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Fissures in CPI-M over poll debacle?

By Indrani Roy Mitra
May 16, 2009 14:52 IST
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With the Lok Sabha poll results showing serious setbacks for the Left Front and the Trinamool Congress heading for a historic win West Bengal, the air is thick with suggestions of a split in the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

"What political analysts and party insiders predicted long back will soon be a reality, the CPI-M would be divided into two groups: Pro-Karat and anti-Karat," a senior party leader told, speaking on condition of anonymity. Prakash Karat, of course, is the CPI-M general secretary, its main leader.

"People are just fed up with the CPI-M Politburo's anti-people stance of formulating policies in air-conditioned rooms. A party can't be run on the basis of policies alone. Politics is to be understood through the public pulse," controversial West Bengal Sports, Transport and Youth Affairs Minister Subhas Chakraborty had told in an interview.

His voice found support in eminent writer Mahasweta Devi. While comparing Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to CPI-M Politburo member Brinda Karat, she had said, "Take the case of Brinda Karat. Clad in an expensive sari, she hardly makes an attempt to visit Nandigram or any trouble-prone areas. She can only sit in air-conditioned rooms and compile reports. Is this Communism?" Brinda Karat is also Prakash Karat's wife.

However, it would be unwise to blame Prakash Karat alone for the CPI-M debacle. Some of Karat's colleagues are equally responsible.

When I was in college, none of the CPI-M leaders whom I got a chance to watch closely, impressed me as much as current Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. I saw in him a sensitive intellectual with intent to change West Bengal for the better.

As the information and culture minister, Bhattacharjee gained tremendous support from the youth, primarily because of his dynamism. So when he became chief minister after Jyoti Basu stepped down in 2000, the younger generation was elated. Change is about to set in, they thought. And they were not disappointed, at least initially.

There was a visible improvement in the state's infamous work culture, industrialisation started gaining momentum, the IT sector started eying the moribund state and employment opportunities started booming. But these pleasant moments were short-lived.

We came to witness the other side of Bhattacharjee soon enough when the police fired on innocent villagers resisting forceful acquisition of their land, first in Singur and then in Nandigram. When the intellectuals and general population rose in protest, their voices were silenced. We had to hang our heads in shame.

It is at this juncture that, we the people of Bengal, had expected some words of solace from the CPI-M Politburo. Sadly none could be heard.

Protests, voices of dissent, rallies thereafter became a regular feature of a state desperately groping for a solution. Bengal fervently looked for a viable Opposition. And in this context, as the once-feeble anti-Left Trinamool Congress started gaining ground, Karat and his supporters started going sharply down the popularity ladder.

It goes without saying that the anti-Karat section of the CPI-M in Bengal shares close ties with party patriarch Jyoti Basu. The Basu faction has not forgiven Karat for leading the opposition to the Marxist veteran becoming prime minister in May 1996.

Will Karat and his men chalk out a strategy to pacify Basu loyalists to be led -- it is being heard -- by Somnath Chatterjee and Subhas Chakraborty?

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Indrani Roy Mitra