Illness may be the primary reason for West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s absence from the CPM Politburo meeting on Saturday and Sunday, but he appears increasingly frustrated over his inability to stop the downslide of the party in the state.
Bhattacharjee has been pressing for a clean up in the organization but powerful functionaries at the district level have stonewalled his attempts, said sources who did not want to be named.
“There are many party functionaries who are visibly corrupt. The CM believes that visible action must be taken against them — regardless of the harm they may cause the party,” said a senior CPM leader.
The CM believes that more than his industrialisation policy, it’s the accumulated resentment against corruption at the local level that has done the party in. Party state secretary Biman Bose too acknowledges the problem, but wants a more calibrated approach of cleaning up the rot.
Officially, the CPM has maintained that he is not well. “This is mere media speculation. The chief minister is running high fever, he was advised not to travel,” said CPI(M) leader in Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia.
Asked whether Bhattacharjee is annoyed for having been made the scapegoat for the election defeat, he said: “In our party, no individual is responsible alone for defeat or victory. We have collectively accepted defeat.”
However, the party Central Committee’s review of the polls has been critical of the Bengal government. “There has been lack of consciousness within the cabinet ministers…on the need to increase popular initiatives and resistance to address problems of the people, there was increasing dependence on the administration.”
Sources close to Bhattacharjee say he had offered to quit immediately after the results were announced, but the central leadership requested him not.
Bhattacharjee turned into a villain from a hero within a span of three years.
In 2006, he led the Left Front to its most spectacular assembly election victory ever. It won 245 seats in the 294-member assembly, something even the legendary Jyoti Basu could not do in his 23-year stint since 1977.