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CPM Bengal lobby's anti-Karat tirade may backfire

June 17, 2010 12:35 IST

The Communist Party of India-Marxist's 'West Bengal lobby' has planned to challenge national general secretary Prakash Karat on the timing of the withdrawal of support from the first United Progressive Alliance government, in 2008. However, it just might backfire.

The group, led by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and state secretary Biman Bose, feels the "timing of the withdrawal" in July 2008 was "wrong". The group will seek a review of this decision in the forthcoming extended Central Committee meeting of the party in Vijayawada in August and also question other decisions of the party that are alleged to have led to the debacle in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

This rebellion is likely to face a counter-attack from the Karat lobby on the ground that it was the Bengal unit that had restrained the party from withdrawing its support at least six months earlier. The dismal political situation in the state following the Nandigram firing had forced Karat to accommodate the UPA and allow the government to go to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on November 16, 2007.

The issue of withdrawal of support from the first UPA government assumes significance, as a large section of the party see it as the main reason behind the Left's political downfall over the past two years.

A Karat loyalist in the party told Business Standard, "We would have withdrawn support in November itself and not allow the government to go to the IAEA. But we had no option, as the situation in Bengal was really bad and our party needed time to recover from the Nandigram issue."

In Nandigram, police opened fire on innocent people, killing at least 16, as they were opposing a chemical hub in that area. Subsequently, the state government had to scrap the plan to set up the hub in Nandigram.

According to the Karat camp, even Jyoti Basu had asked the top leadership not to withdraw support at that time, which could have led to an early Lok Sabha election.

The rebel group will also challenge the idea of a "cut and paste third alternative political force" weeks before the election -- a wrong strategic move, according to them. After withdrawing support from the Congress-led UPA, Karat had aggressively worked to form a 'Third Alternative' with parties, including the JD(S), TDP, AIADMK and the BJD.

The decision of the Karat lobby to go for a Third Alternative without any credible and ideological bonding among the allies is likely to draw a lot of criticism and the party is likely to adopt a fresh line on the issue. Some of the Karat loyalists, too, believe the argument of the Bengal lobby and some other leaders on this particular issue is valid.

The CPI-M has called another meeting of its top decision-making body, the Politburo, to discuss the document to "review the implementation" of the political-tactical line adopted in the 2008 Party Congress. There is pressure from the Bhattacharjee camp to "correct" the mistakes before the assembly polls in West Bengal and Kerala next year.

Saubhadro Chatterji in New Delhi