The CPM on Wednesday expelled from the party Ritabrata Banerjee, a Rajya Sabha MP and former all-India general secretary of the SFI, signalling that the feud between the Sitaram Yechury and the Prakash Karat camps would only deepen in the run-up to the party’s national conclave next year. Banerjee told The Indian Express that his fight is against Prakash and Brinda Karat, not against the party.
The West Bengal state secretariat invoked a section of the party constitution which says: “In exceptional circumstances party committees in their discretion may resort to summary procedure in expelling members for grave anti-party activities.”
The explusion came days after Banerjee gave an explosive interview to ABP Ananda television channel in which he not only lashed out at Bengal leader Mohammad Salim, who was heading a three-member probe panel set up by the party to look into complaints against him, but took on the central leadership. According to reports, he had called the Salim panel a “kangaroo commission” and alleged a “caucus” was out to frame him.
A senior leader in Delhi told The Indian Express that his television interview sealed his fate. “The expulsion is not related to the earlier charges. He said so much against the leadership… there was little option left,” the leader said.
Banerjee was a state committee member. Sources in the party said the decision need not be ratified by the central committee.
Banerjee is considered close to Yechury and many in the party view the action against him in the context of the deepening tussle in the party. “It is a long association of 21 years. I am bleeding, profusely bleeding because this is a question of my roots. I have known nothing other than the party. But my fight is not against the party. My fight is against a set of individuals. Prakash and Brinda Karat in Delhi and their Bengal agent Md Salim,” Banerjee told The Indian Express. He said that as an “independent MP” he will contribute on issues of Bengal.
The Salim commission was probing complaints against Banerjee, including charges that he lived a lavish lifestyle. Banerjee was suspended from the party for three months pending inquiry in June.