West Bengal CPI(M) leader Subhas Chakraborty was a dissenting voice in his party for a large part of his political life. Befittingly, the condolence meeting organised by his family at their residence in Salt Lake in eastern Kolkata on Sunday turned into a gathering of former CPI(M) leaders and dissidents.
Expelled party leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, 81, was present as was former party MP Saifuddin Choudhury, 52. They were in the same room as Politburo member Brinda Karat, 62 and CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose,70, but not a word did the two sides exchange.
To make matters worse for the CPI(M) leaders, ailing Marxist patriarch Jyoti Basu, 96, sent a condolence message calling his protégé Chakraborty a “pride of the party” and a “party loyalist”. Basu sent no such message when the CPI(M) held a formal condolence meeting for the departed leader last week.
Chakraborty, who served the state as transport minister from 1996 to 2009, had often made life uncomfortable for the party with his open criticism of party decisions. As he passed away on August 3 at the age of 68, a huge rally of supporters followed his hearse all the way from his residence to the crematorium in south Kolkata, leaving party mandarins squirming.
Chatterjee, who was a close friend of Chakraborty’s, lamented the loss and said after the meeting, “Subhas was with me in tough times.”
The former Lok Sabha Speaker, however, didn’t mention that Chakraborty was one of the few party leaders to publicly criticise the party for expelling Chatterjee.