Breaking away from convention, former Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee spoke for the shortest duration at the CPI(M)’s largest rally since February 2014 at the Brigade Parade Ground on Sunday. But still, for the around eight lakh people who were in attendance, he delivered the message loud and clear: “Bengal has been turned into a hell by Trinamool Congress and it is time to rise and resist it.”
Though he was not the main speaker and was presiding over the meeting, Bhattacharjee, a veteran leader of the party now, virtually set the tone of the rally in his opening remarks as he led the charge against the Mamata Banerjee dispensation: “This government is barbarous and dishonest. The state has been pushed to the brink of doom. We will have to resist this government at any cost.”
Almost taking a cue from him, another party veteran and state secretary Biman Bose said, “The days of protests are over. Get ready to put up a strong resistance to the anarchy. Do not fear the consequences.” With this, Bose also outlined the CPI(M)’s line of action for the coming civic body polls as well as the assembly polls due next year.
The occasion was the beginning of the CPI(M)’s 24th state conference where the leadership is likely to be overhauled, but the turnout and the mood set by Bhattacharjee virtually turned it into an election rally. All the speakers followed the template set by him, with the lone exception being party general secretary Prakash Karat himself.
While every other speaker emphasized on turning “protests” into “resistance,” Karat laid more stress on countering the BJP at the Centre and the “anti-people” policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. “We will decide the course of action for combating the BJP at our party congress in Visakhapatnam in April,” he said. However, Karat too contributed to the tirade against the Trinamool by calling the Mamata Banerjee government a “scam sarkar”.
Lok Sabha MP Md Salim raised the pitch and played to the gallery, dwelling at length on the attacks on women and party cadres by Trinamool men and anti-socials, as well as the Saradha scam and the CBI probe into it. “Don’t forget that mehendi leaves are green but when you squeeze them, the extract is red. We have to carry on this battle and get the red back in every village, every town, every ward and every neighbourhood,” Salim said and then, echoing Bhattacharjee, said, “At places where protests don’t work we will have to resist.”
Sitaram Yechury, party politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP from Bengal, chose to warn both the BJP and the Trinamool. “No one, no matter how powerful, can take down the red flag. During Emergency, Indira Gandhi tried it too, but it resulted in 34 years of Left rule in Bengal,” he told the applauding crowd.