Nine moths after the thrashing it received in the Assembly elections,the CPM leadership has undertaken a purge within. It has dropped 13 of its veterans from the West Bengal state committee,three of them several-term MPs,from key posts on grounds of anti-party activities or age and health.
Party insiders say the exercise was a reflection of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asserting himself with the partys state unit. Such a drive had,in fact,been incorporated in the party programme in 1996,old-timers say,but so far only smaller leaders had been targeted. For a long time since the 2011 defeat,the CPM headquarters dithered over the issue. The bold,new step came with the party facing a steady erosion in its rank and file.
The most prominent among those dropped are three powerful district secretaries: Laxman Seth in East Midnapore under which Nandigram falls; Amitava Nandy in North 24-Parganas; Anil Basu in Hooghly. The newly-constituted CPM state committee announced their downgrade at the concluding day of the party state conference on Saturday. The decision came after almost 11 hours of debate and was projected as an warning to several others.
Only Nandy protested. Seth has gone underground in any case.
For a long time,Bhattacharjee had been upset with Seth. The allegations of anti-party activities apart Seth runs a medical college and a dental college in his home constituency under the banner of an NGO Seth was seen as responsible for what happened at Nandigram,where he is said to have acted without sanction from his seniors in the party.
The reason Seth has gone underground is that he faces criminal charges in the Nandigram violence. He has been booked in a case of kidnapping and killing of several Nandigram villagers during the height of the agitation.
The most significant exclusion,however,is apparently that of Nandy. He was first given a warning with his removal as the district committee secretary,with former minister Gautam Deb replacing him. Nandy did not restrain himself despite being sent several signals, a senior party leader in North 24 Paraganas said,in reply to a question.
Nandy was dropped because of his high-handedness and the factional feuds he had created in the party structure, the leader added. The party headquarters had received several complaints of corruption against him and was investigating these. All these charges were taken into consideration before taking the decision.
Nandy has vowed to fight back. I have not been given a chance to defend myself, he said. I will wait for some more time before I open my mouth. His comrades say that with such serious corruption charges against him,some of these apparently proven,any possibly revolt would make hardly any impact.
For Anil Basu,the ouster completes a fall from grace after his poll performance. He had been winning from Arambag with record margins till he lost in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Basu earned the wrath of central committee leaders when he got involved in political violence in the area,said a party leader,adding that this isolated the party from people at the ground level.
His position in the party became shakier than ever during the 2011 elections,when he made lewd comments against Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. The party warned him then,starting a slide from which he never regained his former position. At the Hooghly district conference,Sudarshan Roy Chowdhury was made district secretary in his place.
Bhattacharjee reportedly faced severe criticism during the delegates conference last week for his industrial policy,which led to some instances of forcible acquisition of land. This apparently did not come in his way as far as the purge was concerned.
Among other changes,one is that Nepaldeb Bhattacharjee is back in the state committee,having once been shunted out of the party for allegedly working to help a rival party. A young student leader,SFI secretary Sayandeep Mitra,is among the new faces in the state committee. Former state ministers Anisur Rahman,Sudarshan Roy Chowdhury,Anadi Sahu,Maldas and Nadias newly elected district secretaries Ambar Mitra,Sumit De and Anju Kar,too,have been included.
Sushanta Ghosh,who was expected to enter the state committee,could not.
The state committee has also done away with veterans such as former Assembly Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim,Jalpaiguri district secretary Manik Sanyal,Kolkata veteran Rajdeo Goala,former MP from Howrah Swadesh Chakrabarty,Malda leader Jiban Moitra,and former MP Dipen Ghosh.