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Murmurs of dissent in CPM over Somnath's expulsion

Indrani Roy-Mitra in Kolkata | July 24, 2008 14:27 IST

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Muffled voices of approval and protest were heard in Communist Party of India-Marxist office in West Bengal following the expulsion of Speaker Somnath Chatterjee [Images].

While loyalists of party general secretary Prakash Karat [Images] thought "this was a just move as no individual is above party and one who breaches discipline should not be spared", the anti-Karat lobby saw in the expulsion another instance of high level "arrogance".

Debabrata Biswas of the Forward Bloc felt Chatterjee "was never a Leftist. Be it his attitude or lifestyle, he was a bourgeois to the core".

His words were echoed by many veteran CPM workers, who hailed the politburo decision to expel Chatterjee. They drew parallels with P C Joshi of the undivided Communist Party of India long ago and Saifuddin Chowdhury of CPM in recent times, both of who faced party censure. 

The Rediff interview: Saifuddin Chowdhury

However, criticism for the CPM has poured in from some unexpected quarters as well.
For instance, CPM MP from West Bengal Tarit Baran Topdar did not mince his words while denouncing the party move. "Evicting Somnathda will surely have a long term effect, it does mean a major loss to CPI-M," he told local media.
Like Topdar, West Bengal Sports Minister Subhas Chakraborty [Images] too expressed his displeasure over the move.

Defying the party line once again, Chakraborty told the local media late on Wednesday night, "Somnathda was an asset to the party. This decision may not augur well for the CPI-M."

Chakraborty is known to share close ties with Chatterjee and both consider Jyoti Basu their mentors.

This is the second time in recent times that Chakraborty has chosen to speak against the party.

A week prior to the trust vote, Chakraborty had drawn the party's ire by stating "the post of Speaker has its sanctity and is above party politics and that the Speaker's case should not be viewed as a CPI-M party affair".

Soon after, Chakraborty was showcaused for questioning the party line publicly and reprimanded later as well by the CPM central committee.

Talking to the press shortly after the Speaker's expulsion on Wednesday, CPM State Secretary and politburo member Biman Bose had said, "Chatterjee was expelled for violating party discipline."

Will the party, therefore, bring similar charges against Topdar and Chakraborty now that they have publicly disapproved of the party move?
Or will the CPI-M strategically keep mum on the issue as both Topdar and Chakraborty, unlike Chatterjee, have a strong appeal in West Bengal?

And if the CPI-M overlooks this criticism, how will it justify its stand among its members who take great pride in the so-called party discipline?

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