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West Bengal: CPI (M), Congress flay Mamata’s ‘magnanimity’ in 1993 police firing case

Leaders of the two opposition parties in Bengal say the chief minister is trying to create a rift between them.

india Updated: Jul 23, 2017 15:49 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times, Kolkata

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s announcement to punish policemen responsible for a 1993 firing but “spare” her two predecessors is being seen by her critics as an attempt to create a rift between the CPI(M) and the Congress in West Bengal.

Banerjee at a public rally on Friday said FIR would be lodged against the policemen over the July 21 firing, which led to the death of 13 youth Congress activists, as per the recommendations of an inquiry commission set up by her government.

But in an apparent attempt to show political magnanimity, she added in the same breath former chief ministers Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would be “spared.”

But leaders of the CPI (M) and the Congress pointed out Basu, who was chief minister when the police opened fire on protesters led by Banerjee as a Youth Congress leader, died in 2010 and Bahattacharjee was holding information and cultural affairs and urban development portfolios and had no connection with the firing.

By projecting that she had been “magnanimous” towards her political opponents, the chief minister was actually trying to shield a key leader of her party, Manish Gupta, claimed leaders of the two parties that are trying to put up a joint front against her in the state, where BJP of late has made a significant inroad.

Gupta was the state home secretary at the time of the incident.

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Banerjee said the commission found the firing was fallout of a “major conspiracy” by then Basu- led Left Front government. The commission was headed by retired Calcutta high court judge Sushanta Chatterjee.

Reacting to her remarks, Congress legislator and leader of opposition in Bengal assembly Abdul Mannan told HT that her sole purpose was to “finish the Congress and the Left Front.”

“First she tried to do that by giving the BJP a long rope in a bid to divide opposition votes. Now realising that this clandestine backing to the BJP is giving her a bad name, she is resorting to this new drama. What was she doing in the last six years?” questioned Mannan, one of the principal architects of the Left Front- Congress seat sharing agreement in 2016 Bengal assembly polls.

He said the real motive behind her claim of “sparing” two Left leaders was to protect Gupta, ruling Trinamool Congress’s Rajya Sabha member.

“As the home secretary Gupta was responsible for implementing the firing order. Now chief minister needs to protect him and hence she is making such an announcement by projecting herself as the symbol of political courteousness,” said Mannan.

Senior lawyer of the Calcutta high court and Congress leader Arunava Ghosh accused the chief minister of violating law by revealing contents of a sensitive report at a public meeting.

“This is absolutely illegal. She cannot reveal any part of the report at a public meeting without placing it before the assembly,” Ghosh said.

The CPI (M) leadership too felt that this announcement of “sparing Basu and Bhattacharjee” had been made to protect Gupta, who held the power portfolio during the Trinamool government’s first term from 2011 to 2016, and to “divide the opposition unity.”

CPI (M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra said: “The chief minister did not say a word about the former home secretary because he was a member of her cabinet from 2011 to 2016.”

Incidentally, it was Gupta who defeated Bhattacharjee from Jadavpur in 2011. Prior to that no debutant had ever defeated an incumbent chief minister in Bengal.

Banerjee also announced that following recommendation of the commission, her government would give a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to families of the 13 youths. She said all the cases filed against the protestors by the then government would also be withdrawn following the recommendation of the commission.

The firing incident remains a contentious issue between the Congress and the CPI (M) members, particularly at the grassroots.

Both the Trinamool Congress and the Congress observe July 21 as “martyrs day.”

Story ends

First Published: Jul 23, 2017 15:48 IST