At a time when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is literally burning midnight oil to woo investors, one of his senior cabinet colleagues has left Bengal's communists on the sticky wicket of regionalism — a term the communists have always condemned.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje on Friday lambasted Bengal Land and Land Reforms Minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah for denigrating Marwaris of his state and described his utterances at a public function as "most unfortunate and which goes against the spirit of the Constitution". Mollah's effigy was also burnt by Rajasthan Yuva Manch activists who took out a procession in Jaipur in protest against the outburst of the Bengal minister.
The reaction in Rajasthan, coming close on the heels of the so-called crusade against non-Maharashtrians declared by Maharashtra Navanirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, was not unprovoked. While addressing an audience on Mother Language Day on February 21, Mollah, in the presence of other CPI(M) leaders, accused Marwaris of adopting unfair means to get work done. He said it was because of Marwaris that corruption was rampant.
Although some CPM leaders reacted immediately, condemning Mollah's statement, the state unit sat up only on Friday.
It was clear the party would pull up the minister. In a statement, state secretary Biman Bose apologised for the minister's comments and said his view was not that of the party. "The party does not approve of what he said. Rather, our party does not nurture any hatred against any linguistic or ethnic group or community. It does not speak of hurting any community. The state leadership will talk to the minister. We are sorry if any community has been hurt."
Later in the day, Mollah apologised for his comments, according to a PTI report. "If anyone was hurt by my inadvertent remarks, I regret it," he said.