Novelty has always been Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi's style of politics. On Friday at Naxalbari, Dasmunshi promised in his public meeting that he would take out a Rathyatra from Coochbehar to Kaliachak to demand for the development of North Bengal and unity of the Congress.
Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi's well-attended public meeting at Naxalbari in Darjeeling district came a day before the State Congress rally at Shahid Minar in the city called by former PCC chief Somen Mitra.
In the meeting, Dasmunshi gave a call to the Congress leaders, workers and supporters to build up a mass movement to fight the CPI(M) that was exterminating and suppressing the democratic voices of Bengal.
Addressing the masses, Dasmunshi said that from Naxalbari – which hit the headlines in 1967 for land movement against the landed gentry – Congress should kick off its movement against the CPI(M) that was now forcibly displacing the innocent farmers from their lands in Bengal.
Dasmunshi told the crowd that time has come for a united Congress to rise to the occasion with the support of the people to fight the Left Front government that was neglecting the development of this belt.
"The Congress and its supporters should build up a strong movement to take on the CPI(M) that was displacing the poor farmers; to thwart the CPI(M) unleashed terror in the villages of Bengal; and to provide succour to the starving workers of the closed tea estates in North Bengal being neglected by the State government," said Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi.
"Forty years back, it is from here that the first land movement started in the state. At that time, Jyoti Basu as home minister had ordered firing at innocent revolutionaries. Today his prodigy, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is firing at innocent villagers," added Congress leader Subrata Mukherjee.
In the meeting, apart from taking up the cause of the farmers and the state of North Bengal, Dasmunshi also sent a strong message to the PCC satraps led by Somen Mitra about his strength in the party.
The Naxalbari meeting – which was virtually a Dasmunshi show – was attended by MPs Dawa Norbula and AH Khan Chowdhury, MLAs DP Roy, Fazle Haque, Deepa Dasmunshi, Krishnendu Chowdhury, Chittaranjan Roy and senior Congress leaders like Subrata Mukherjee, Abdul Mannan, Maya Ghosh, Malda Zilla Parishad Chairman Gautam Chakrabarty and chairmen of several other municipalities.
But the PCC satraps didn't like what happened in Naxalbari. They alleged Dasmunshi had gone against the official Congress line by holding his meeting at Naxalbari and was also dividing the State Congress. The PCC leaders are also upset because instead of participating in the Saturday Congress meeting in the city, Dasmunshi was holding another rally at Krishnanagar being organised by his loyalist and PCC general secretary Shankar Singh.
"They are openly violating the party line. I have personally invited Dasmunshi and all the Congress leaders with him to the Shahid Minar meeting on Saturday. But they are not attending it. This is unfortunate. Can a divided Congress ever take on the CPI(M) here?" asked a dejected PCC working president Pradip Bhattacharya.
Somen Mitra said let the AICC President Sonia Gandhi decide what is to be done with the Congress rebels. "Even during Digvijay Singh' visit to Nandigram, who was Sonia Gandhi's emissary, the rebels went with Dasmunshi. I am sure Sonia Gandhi is watching everything," said Somen Mitra.
But the man who wants to be kept out of this factional strife in the State Congress is Union External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Though Pranab has been invited as the star-speaker at Somen Mitra's meeting on Saturday, sources said Pranab would not attend the rally.
"Everything depends on the report of the doctors. His stitches have been removed on Thursday, so it will not be surprising if he is unable to attend the rally," said CLP leader Manas Bhuniya.