Former chief minister and CPI-M leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will come out of semi-retirement to campaign for the crucial West Bengal assembly polls that have brought the Left party and the Congress together for the first time in the state.
A CPI-M leader said that Bhattacharjee, 72, will campaign in at least four constituencies including Bhawanipore where chief minister Mamata Banerjee is the Trinamool Congress candidate.
Four days of voting remain in the five-phase elections stretching up to May 5.
Bhattacharjee, one of the tallest CPI-M leaders in Bengal, was the chief minister from 2000-2011 before he was ousted from power in a Trinamool sweep.
A patient of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, he is hardly seen in public due to his advancing age and failing health. Last year, he was formally relieved of party responsibilities by the leadership.
Sources said that he is likely to campaign for candidates of the CPM-Congress alliance in Jadavpur, Singur and either Kasba or Bhangar in South 24 Parganas besides Bhawanipore.
Party leaders believe that once Bhattacharjee lends his voice, the message of alliance will ring out even stronger. The CPM and Congress have been traditional rivals in the state ruled by the Left party for 34 years at a stretch.
The alliance between Congress and the Left has already resulted in unique scenes in the state with slogans such as ‘Rahul Gandhi lal salaam’ renting the air in a public rally at Niyamatpur near Kulti in Burdwan district on April 2.
“Congress leaders have requested us so that Bhattacharjee campaigns for at least one their candidate and they emphasised on the Bhawanipore constituency,” said a state committee leader of CPI(M).
Bhattacharjee will speak in Deepa Dasmunshi’s support there.
Jadavpur is Bhattacharjee’s former constituency -- he won five times from this seat between 1987 and 2006 -- where he was vanquished by former chief secretary Manish Gupta in 2011.
This time Bhattacharjee will pitch for CPI-M candidate Sujan Chakrabarty who will take on Gupta from Jadavpur.
The third constituency where the former chief minister will address a public meeting will be Singur, the site of Tata Motor small car project in Hooghly district.
“On January 16, Bhattacharjee flagged off the ‘march for industry’ from ‘Singur to Salboni’. Singur has an extremely high symbolic value, and we all want Bhattacharjee to address at least one campaign rally here,” the state committee leader said.
The fourth constituency where the former chief minister is likely to campaign will be either Kasba or Bhangar. From Kasba, CPI(M) has fielded its youngest candidate Satarup Ghosh against the state fire service and disaster management minister Javed Ahmed Khan.
However, if Bhattacharjee chooses Bhangar, it will be interesting to see how he attacks the Trinamool candidate Abdur Rezzak Mollah, an eight-time MLA who won each time on CPI-M ticket and was a minister in the Bhattacharjee cabinet. Mollah joined Trinamool just before the elections after he was expelled from CPI-M in February 2014.