The possibility of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee's resignation hung heavy in the corridors of Writers' Building till late Monday evening. As the opposition continued to ponder 'will he, won't he', an announcement from the Left Front top rung put an end to all speculations.
Committed supporters of Bengal's red bastion heaved a sigh of relief as the Left Front decided to go easy on matters like land acquisition and setting up of special economic zones.
Bhattacharjee had considered resigning, failing to counter the criticisms unleashed on him and his party by friends and foes alike for the so-called 'planned genocide at Nandigram.'
The same political aide to chief minister's office who had spoken to rediff.com about Bhattacharjee's intent to step down on Monday said over telephone a day after, "I have never seen Buddhababu as perturbed as he was yesterday. He wore a grim face, a vacant look... he was visibly shaken by the people's outcry," he said.
"The chief minister muttered 'resignation' many times before and during his parleys with other CPI-M leaders."
According to the aide, Bhattacharjee changed his mind only after a prolonged close-door meeting with the CPI-M top brass, including the former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu and CPI-M State Secretary Biman Bose. "Basu took Buddhababu under his wings and forbade him to make any statement to the press."
Naturally, therefore, a clarification about the Left Front's stand on the Nandigram incident which followed soon after the meeting was mouthed by CPI-M
Pooh-poohing possibility of Bhattacharjee's resignation to party members, (Biman) Bose is 'heard' to have said, "There was no question of his stepping down especially amid these protests. This will not only tarnish the Left Front image but would also give our insignificant opposition a shot in the arm."
Left Front leaders are also heard to have expressed dissatisfaction over the proficiency of the police intelligence. "Despite repeated warnings that violence might erupt in Nandigram and that arms were being systematically procured at certain pockets, why did police fail to nab the miscreants in time," asked a party veteran.
More than 4,000 heavily armed police allegedly stormed Nandigram area on March 14 to stifle protests against the West Bengal government's plans to expropriate 10,000 acres of land for a special economic zone to be developed by the Indonesian-based Salim Group. The police reportedly shot dead at least 14, including women and wounded 70.
In protest against these 'administrative atrocities', intellectuals had taken to the streets over the weekend demanding the chief minister's resignation. At a forum at central Kolkata last weekend, a group of intellectuals, including writers Nabarun Bhattacharya, poet Jaya Mitra, actors Aparna Sen, Indrani Halder, Anjan Dutt, singer-musicians Kabir Suman, Pratul Mukherjee, Pallav Kirtaniya, playwrights like Bibhas Chakraborty, Bratya Basu, Ashok Mukherjee, Kaushik Sen, educationist Saibal Mitra, filmmaker Gautam Ghosh flayed Bhattacharjee and his "anti-people" attitude.
Many had even renounced state awards and honours conferred on them. Bhattacharjee, a writer, poet and playwright himself, was so distressed by this that he thought of quitting his post.