When a delegate in CPM’s 24th state conference in West Bengal said the party’s present status in the state was that of a “senior citizen’s party,” there were quite a few who should have taken umbrage.
One certainly did. Veteran CPM leader and state secretary Biman Bose touched upon the issue while replying to the debate on the state secretary’s organisational-political report.
“I am 76. I am aware that at this age, I should make way for younger, new leadership to take over. Younger leadership should come at all levels of the party,” said Bose.
CPM sources say stage has been set for a transfer of power from Bose to a younger leader, in all likelihood Surya Kanta Mishra, Leader of the Opposition in Assembly. “Like former Kerala state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan who relinquished his post in February, Biman da is also on his way out,” said a state committee member.
The formal announcement regarding leadership changes is to be made Friday evening. Party sources say that besides the secretary post, the state secretariat would see sizeable changes.
A state secretariat member said: “Biman da’s replacement is 99 per cent confirmed. The rest is uncertain as it is difficult to say the last word in the Communist party”. He added that a section of party leaders want Bose to stay on.
“There is a slight debate over Bose completing three terms. One section has been arguing that he took over as secretary on March 31, 2006 after Anil Biswas’s death. So, this term is not yet over,” he said.
The majority, however, thinks the possibility of Bose staying back is remote. This was evident when Mishra was sent to preside in most district conferences. Also, at the Kolkata rally last week, Mishra was chosen as the last speaker, an indication that he has already overtaken both Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Bose in the CPM hierarchy.
Bose’s report to the conference reflected the party’s dismal state in Bengal. It spoke of total “disinterest” among members towards mass movements. Noting that the party membership dipped by about 43,000 members between 2011 to 2014, the report attributed the dip to a section of members shying away having been deprived of the “fruits of power.”
If the CPM top leadership and the state secretariat agree on Bose’s replacement, it would usher in the end of an era in the Bengal Communist movement.
CPM veterans like Bhattacharjee and Nipuram Sen are already on their way out. While Bhattacharjee has been plagued by old age and “disillusionment,” Sen is seriously ill and confined to a wheelchair. Both are likely to exit from the politburo during the ensuing party congress.
However, while Bhattacharjee and Sen are known as leaders who sought “glasnost” in pursing a progressive ideology and pushing for reforms, Bose was considered a staunch advocate of hardline communism.
Sources say Bose and Bhattacharjee have often been on opposite poles on issues like Jyoti Basu being offered the PM seat in 1996. While Bhattacharjee was in favour of it, Bose was dead against. Similarly, it has been learnt that Bose had reservations to Bhattacharjee’s efforts to bring in rapid industrialisation into Bengal, but he did not make them public.
A leader who lived at the party office
Comrade Biman Bose is known for his spartan lifestyle. Having severed his links with the family, he stays in a room in the Alimuddin Street party office. Earlier, he had spent days in the party commune. Even at the age of 76, Bose washes his clothes and utensils. He also tends to a terrace garden on the roof of the party office. Bose had donated blood at least 80 times in his span of 76 years and wanted to continue till doctors stopped him.
As a Communist, he is a hardliner. Born in 1940, he joined the undivided Communist Party of India in 1958. When the Communist party split in 1964, he joined the CPM when he was emerging as a powerful student front leader. In 1970, he became the founder secretary of the Students’ Federation of India. His ability as a student leader drew Promode Das Gupta’s attention and in 1977-78, Bose was endowed with larger responsibilities of building the party in South Bengal districts like Purulia, Bankura, and undivided Midnapore. He helped make deep inroads into these areas by organising “padayatras” from various districts like Purulia and Cooch Behar. These districts went on to the form the backbone of the Left power in Bengal for over three decades. ENS