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Bengal CPI(M) keeps door ajar for allies in rural polls

As a result of the exit of senior members such as former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, his cabinet colleagues Asim Dasgupta, Nirupam Sen and former Lok Sabha MP Basudeb Acharya, the average age of the 80-member state committee came down from 60.5 years to 54.5.

kolkata Updated: Mar 09, 2018 10:00 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee
Tanmay Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Bengal,CPI(M),Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
On Thursday Bengal CPI(M) took a landmark decision of ‘retiring’ former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and prominent members of his cabinet including Nirupam Sen and Asim Dasgupta from the state committee.(HT Photo)

The Bengal unit of the CPI(M) on Thursday formally effected a generational shift by “retiring” former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and prominent members of his cabinet from the party’s newly formed 80-member state committee, bringing down the average age of members from 60.5 years to 54.5.

The decisions were announced at the end of the four-day conference of the Bengal CPI(M). The reshuffle, as reported by Hindustan Times on March 2, is part of the ongoing process of replacing aging and ailing leaders with new faces. In Bengal, around 300 young leaders have already been inducted in different committees in the districts.

Read: Churning in Bengal CPM: 300 young leaders take charge as party hopes for revival

Against the backdrop of the ongoing debate inside the CPI(M) over having Congress and other regional parties as electoral allies -- a proposition strongly opposed by former CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat and leaders in Kerala -- Thursday’s development was significant.

“The CPI(M) never faced a more severe challenge since Independence. Sharp polarization in politics and divisions created on religious and ethnic lines make it necessary for all Left and democratic forces to put up mass resistance against the BJP,” said Politburo member Suryakanta Mishra, who was elected Bengal state secretary for the second time.

“In Bengal, the BJP and Trinamool are our enemies. In the coming panchayat polls CPI(M) and other Left parties will fight alongside Left-democratic forces. In places where we are not strong we will leave the fight to other political parties and organisations that are serious about confronting Trinamool and BJP. For this, a platform can be set up without using political flags,” added Mishra.

Read: Demand for alliance with Congress gets louder within CPI(M) rank

Interestingly, this was exactly the strategy the Bengal CPI(M) adopted on the eve of the Assembly polls in 2016 when it forged an electoral understanding with the Congress. In many election rallies party leaders did not use flags. The strategy however did not yield results and the central committee later nullified it. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was one of the main proponents of the alliance with Congress.

Asked whether the CPI(M) would once again forge an alliance with Congress in the state, Mishra refused to comment. “There was no discussion on Congress at our conference. Such issues have been mentioned in the draft political resolution of our 22nd party congress and we will discuss these next month. All I can say is agitations and struggles can’t be carried out by following a dictionary or encyclopedia,” said Mishra.

Former finance minister Asim Dasgupta and former industry minister Nirupam Sen, the two most prominent faces of the erstwhile Left regime, retired from the Bengal state committee on Thursday along with Madan Ghosh, Kanti Ganguly, Dipak Dasgupta and Basudeb Acharya, one of the longest serving former members of the Lok Sabha. They were all made special invitees in keeping with old custom.

Read: Why CPI(M) isn’t keen to ally with the Congress

Most of these leaders, including the former chief minister, are also members of the central committee which will go through a similar churning at the party congress in April. “The central committee may bid farewell to some of them as well although the maximum permissible age in the central committee is 80 years,” said a central committee member from Bengal.

The man who survived the churning is Politburo member and chairman of the Bengal Left Front, Biman Bose. Though 77, Bose is considered an asset by the party because of his energy and zeal. “He wanted to retire but we find him younger than our young members,” quipped Mishra.

The youngest person to make it to the new state committee is Madhuja Sen Roy, 33, secretary of the Bengal unit of Student’s Federation of India, the party’s student wing.

First Published: Mar 09, 2018 10:00 IST