Let us hark back to the dear departed Leftist patriarch Jyoti Basu. He had pejoratively referred to Sonia Gandhi as “oie mohila (that woman)” when the lady became a primary member of the Indian National Congress. The then West Bengal chief minister was echoing the feelings of the Left towards the brazen brand of “dynastic politics” indulged in by India's grand old party.
Cut to 2011. The leftists seem to have taken a leaf of the Congress' well-worn book. On its list of candidates for the coming West Bengal Assembly polls are many individuals who owe their prominence primarily to their blood ties. In fact, in the recent by-election in the Belgachia East constitutency, the CPM nominated Ramala Chakrabarty to fill the seat left vacant since the death of her husband, minister and controversial state secretariat member Subhash Chakraborty.
In the upcoming state election, the CPM has fielded Fuad Halim, a young physician, from Ballygunge constituency. His father, Hashim Abdul Halim, is still the Speaker of the State Assembly but he has decided to retire from active politics on the grounds of failing health. Fuad is being portrayed as a ‘social worker’ by CPM leaders.
“He (Fuad) has been nominated only because Halim sahib is his father. We talk so much about the need to bring an end to the dynastic rule of the Nehru-Gandhi family in the Congress, but it seems we are also doing much the same,” a young CPM leader from Ballygunge said on condition of anonymity after the Left Front chairperson Biman Bose announced his name. “Fuad Halim isn’t a social worker. He runs his own business. This is proof that merit is being superseded by the right connections,” he added.
A scrutiny of the Left candidates’ list throws up other names that have the “right connections”. Soumendranath Bera, son of former CPM MLA Dr Bishnu Bera, has been re-nominated to contest from the Purshura constituency of Hooghly district. Soumendranath is a minister in the present state government.
The sitting MLA of Mahisadal, Tamalika Panda Seth (CPM), is the better half of former MP of Tamluk and kingpin of the Nandigram episode, Laxman Seth. She has got her nomination again though Laxman’s efforts to also get himself nominated were nipped in the bud by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
However, Palash Das, the son of powerful CPM leader Dinendra Bhusan Das alias Mona Master, the party’s district secretariat member, has managed to secure a ticket from Bidhannagar. But despite the support of his resourceful father, the going will be tough for him because he is up against present Trinamool Congress MLA Sujit Basu.
Basu is a political heavyweight who defeated Ramala Chakraborty in the Belgachia by-election, negating what observers had described as a sympathy wave in the latter's favour.
Similarly, Satyasebi Kar got his nomination from Ashok Nagar, the constituency that his father, Nani Kar, represnted several times. There is obvious disaffection in the party ranks. “Satyasebi has no right to lead the party here. He is just Nanida’s son. We wonder why several serious and youthful party leaders were ignored,” quipped a middle-aged CPM member and teacher in a local school.
The CPM has also chosen former party MLA Ratan Pakhira’s spouse, Chhabi Pakhira, to contest from Ghatal, West Midnapur and Shantanu Bora, the son of former MLA Badan Bora, to represent Indus (ST) of Bankura.
Ranu Roy Chowdhury (maiden surname Majumdar) of the CPM will contest from Asansol South. She is the wife of ex-CPM MLA of Asansol Gautam Roy Chowdhury, who was also the mayor of Asansol Municipal Corporation.
The CPM's partners in the Left Front are no different. All-India Forward Bloc (AIFB) has re-nominated Udayan Guha from Dinhata. He is the son of the late West Bengal minister Kamal Guha. He contested first when Kamalbabu passed away.
Former food and civil supplies minister of the Left Front government Kalimuddin Shams’s son, Mainuddin Shams (AIFB), is contesting from Kolkata Port. He lost the Kabitirtha seat to the Congress in the last state election.
Ramjan Ali was a senior leader of AIFB and was murdered in the MLA Hostel in the 1990s. His son, Ali Imran Ramz, contested the Goalpokhar byelection when the seat fell vacant after Deepa Dasmunshi got herself elected to Parliament. He is contesting from Chakulia in the same district this time as Goalpokhar has been eliminated after delimitation.
His uncle and former minister, Hafiz Alam Sairani, also represented the seat after Ramjan’s murder. “It seems they have made the seat a personal property” lamented a CPM man, who was also an aspirant for the new seat, Chakulia.
CPI, which was hitherto considered to be ‘unaffected by dynastic principles’, has gone ahead and nominated Tarit Chakraborty to contest from the Sonarpur South seat. Though his father Haridhan Chakraborty was never an MLA or MP, he was a legend of the Tebhaga days. During those days of the underground resistance, he was known as Jiban da to his followers and wielded considerable clout in political circles.
The noted music director of Hindi films, Salil Chowdhury once admitted that “I was picked up by Jiban da while I was a student. At that time I was a poet and used to play the flute. Jiban da inspired me to try mu hand at composing mass songs.”
“You have found only a dozen names from a total of 294 candidates nominated by the Left. Don’t you think the number is negligible? But I agree that this does represent a trend of sorts. If we adopt the ways of the Congress, we end up losing the right to criticise them,” said a senior CPM leader and member of the Calcutta
District Committee of the party.