KOLKATA: As West Bengal on Saturday worshipped Saraswati, the goddess of learning, state CPI(M) leaders urged their central leaders to learn from mistakes and not commit a “historical blunder” like they had almost two decades ago, when they denied late former state chief minister Jyoti Basu the chance to become Prime Minister in 1996 at the invitation of the Congress and other third front parties.
After the two-day state committee ended, the Bengal comrades seem to have won round one of advocating a tactical line of alliance with the Congress in the state to ensure the defeat of the ruling Trinamool Congress. The next two rounds will be in New Delhi as the CPI(M) politburo meets on February 16 followed by a two-day central committee meeting where the final decision will be taken. Though the Kerala unit and those close to former general secretary Prakash Karat are opposed to a Congress alliance, the Bengal team finds support in general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
The state committee meeting witnessed interesting speeches as 54 speakers each spoke for eight minutes — 43 of them strongly in favour of ties with the Congress and 11 opposed. What was unprecedented was how several young members castigated the central party leadership for not being pragmatic in the past. Rajya Sabha member Rhitobrata Banerjee remarked, “In the past the CPI(M) has missed the bus several times. Now is the time to relate the party’s theoretical line to the need of the masses.” Another young member and former Lok Sabha MP Shamik Lahiri was harsher as he commented: “The CPI(M) has committed suicides several times. Kindly ensure that this time we don’t commit suicide again.”
If the Central Committee doesn’t approve, Bengal CPI(M) has a plan B: a “tactical adjustment” to field weak candidates in constituencies where the Congress is stronger.