Was West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee censured by the CPI-M politburo for his anti-strike remarks? On Friday, confusion reigned with some leaders in West Bengal saying that he had been "publicly censured" but their counterparts in New Delhi claiming that Bhattacharjee would face a strong reprimand only at the next meeting of the politburo.
"The report (that Bhattacharjee was censured by the politburo) is baseless," said senior CPI-M leader S Ramachandra Pillai.
"The politburo will have to discuss the matter and will take a decision only after knowing the context in which the chief minister made such a remark," Pillai told IANS in New Delhi.
CPI-M sources indicated that Bhattacharjee may be warned by the politburo during its two-day meeting on Sepember 6. Bhattacharjee will be asked to explain his comments that have attracted severe criticism from both his party colleagues and alliance partners.
In Kolkata, however, central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty, known for his proximity to Bhattacharjee, said categorically that the chief minister had been "punished" by the politburo that publicly censured him for his opinion against strikes.
"The politburo has publicly censured Bhattacharjee Thursday for his comments against strikes. As per our party constitution, publicly censuring someone is a punishment and the party has given the punishment to him," Chakraborty told reporters.
"Bhattacharjee has accepted the punishment," he added.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist's state secretary and politburo member Biman Bose also said: "The chapter is closed. He didn't say sorry to the party. The chief minister has already accepted the party's decision."
On Thursday, the politburo had snubbed the West Bengal chief minister by issuing a statement clarifying that it firmly stood for the right to strike by the working class as a fundamental right.
Party insiders pointed out that the public statement against Bhattacharjee's remark against shutdowns itself was "equivalent to reprimand".
According to the CPI-M's constitution, violation of decisions of the party "shall constitute a breach of party discipline and will be liable to disciplinary action".
Of the six disciplinary actions, warning is the first step. It is followed by censure, public censure, removal from the post in the party, suspension from full party membership for any period but not exceeding one year and finally expulsion.
Bhattacharjee, himself a party politburo member, had said at a business gathering in Kolkata on Tuesday: "Personally, I don't support strikes. Bandhs (shutdowns) do not help the country." He added that he found sieges and shutdowns "immoral".
"Unfortunately, I belong to a political party. They call strikes and I keep mum," he said.
Giving the counter view, Chakraborty said strikes were not a luxury but the last weapon of struggle in the hands of the working class.
"Strikes are not a luxury but the last weapon of the working class to protest against injustices meted out to them. We cannot use this weapon off and on. In fact, it's the state's opposition parties that call strikes every now and then. It's their conspiracy to poison people's minds about strikes," he said.