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Murmurs against Karat continue

The CPI(M) went into damage control mode on Monday to contain the increasingly audible murmurs of the West Bengal unit against party general secretary Prakash Karat, 61, and the central leadership, reports HT.

delhi Updated: May 19, 2009 00:14 IST

The CPI(M) went into damage control mode on Monday to contain the increasingly audible murmurs of the West Bengal unit against party general secretary Prakash Karat, 61, and the central leadership.

At a Politburo meeting in Delhi, the party’s leadership conceded that its strident espousal of the Third Front had boomeranged and was one of the key factors for the defeat. Key Politburo member and West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, 64, however, was not present at the meeting.

The CPI(M) has been reduced to just 16 seats from the 43 it had in the outgoing Lok Sabha. This means it is now the eighth largest party in Parliament; it had emerged as the third largest in 2004.

The murmurs against Karat, meanwhile, refused to die down. Rumours that Bhattacharjee had offered to resign as chief minister continued to buzz through the day, indicating a concerted attempt by the “Bengal group” within the party to mount pressure on Karat to follow suit.

Amitabha Nandy, 65, the party’s strongman in Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district, who lost from Dum Dum, said: “The loss in Bengal was due to the lack of clarity of our central leadership on the national issues.”

Another top leader from bengal confirmed to HT that state leaders were “extremely upset with Karat and his dogmatic political line that was devoid of any understanding of the nuances of electoral politics”.

For the record, the CPI(M) avoided blaming any individual for the poll debacle. “No one person can be responsible individually. It is a collective failure,” CPM’s Bengal chief Biman Basu, 68, told HT.

Interestingly, a pro-Karat member of the Politburo blamed the Bengal government’s handling of Nandigram and Singur issues for the loss.

An indication that all wasn’t well became evident from the bland statement issued by the Politburo, which usually analyses election results in great detail. The three-page statement sought to deflect the unease within the party by talking only about poll-related violence in Bengal. It was silent on the reasons for the defeat.

Meanwhile, Bhattacharjee, who ostensibly skipped the Politburo meeting because of the deteriorating post-poll law and order situation in Bengal, met party patriarch Jyoti Basu, 94, at his residence in Kolkata on Monday evening. Basu had strongly opposed the Karat line on both the Indo-US nuclear deal as well as the Third Front.

Officially, it was described as a courtesy call. It may be recalled that in 1996, Karat and a few others in the Politburo had blocked a bid by the combined Opposition to anoint Basu as the country’s prime minister.

Karat still holds a slight edge in the 17-member Politburo, but HT learns that the situation is very fluid, and the general secretary may have a lot of explaining to do in the days ahead.