Buddhadeb may threaten to quit
The crisis in the Left Front over police firing in Nandigram deepened further on Friday with the CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc again threatening to quit the government unless five of their demands were met and the chief minister devising a counter strategy of threatening to step down. The chief minister's threat to quit will force the three Front partners to buckle under pressure, the CPI(M) believes.
The three key Front partners met on Friday evening to take the decision a day before the crucial Left Front meeting, where the chief minister would explain under what circumstances he had sent in the police to Nandigram. However, what further twisted the already complicated issue, was a phone call made by CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu to Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh during the meting. Basu advised the Forward Bloc leader that the three Front constituents should stick to their demands and should not buckle under any pressure.
Significantly, Basu skipped the CPI(M) state secretariat meeting earlier in the day, which was stormy with several members saying that they had been kept in the dark about the impending police operation in Nandigram. The party's counter strategy to fend of the allies' pressure was devised in this meeting.
"Biman (Left Front chairman) came to me this morning. He was giving me some other advice. I did not agree. You stick to your demands and don't budge," Basu told Ghosh. He did not elaborate on what advice Biman had given him.
The five demands include: the Left Front must unanimously condemned police firing; police must be immediately withdrawn from Nandigram; the chief minister has to categorically announce that no SEZ would be set up in Nandigram; those who ordered the police firing must be identified and the CPI(M) must stop trying to run a one-party government and instead involve the Left Front in governance.
Anticipating the strategy of its three partners, the CPI(M) state secretariat discussed the thorny issue and devised its counter strategy. Though several members challenged the chief minister's claim that he had kept the secretariat members informed of the police action, the meeting in the end decided to firmly back Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
It was unanimously decided that if the CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc formally threatened to quit the cabinet, the chief minister would own up responsibility of the adverse fallout of Nandigram firing and offer to step down himself.
"If Buddhada says he would resign, will the allies be able to take the pressure. We are sure that they will buckle because the political fallout of chief minister's resignation will be too much," a CPI(M) state secretariat member told HT, though he admitted that he had no prior knowledge of the impending police action in Nandigram. He, however, refused to comment when told that Jyoti Basu himself had asked the allies not to buckle under any pressure.