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Double Trouble


Two CPM rebels have helped Mamata Banerjee’s ambition take wings. Snehangshu Adhikari has the details
SNEHANGSHU ADHIKARI | Issue Dated: March 9, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : Mamata Bannerjee | Amartya Sen | Rezzak Mollah | CPM |

That Mamata Bannerjee is jockeying for a larger role in national politics has now been proved beyond any reasonable doubt. After endorsements by Anna Hazare,  where visuals of her touching the grand old man’s feet was the top photo of the day, Delhi’s indefatigable Shahi Imam and a host of ‘so-called’ apolitical leaders, she is set to make a mark in the General Elections with an all India presence.

 No guesses for knowing where she wants to throw her weight around: Kerala and Tripura, two acknowledged Left bastions - in fact the last two left with the CPM. In the process, she has given the once all-powerful Bengal Left the jolt of their collective lifetimes.

Ironically, the credit for this grand design goes to two CPM rebels, Abdul Rezzak Mollah and Lakshman Seth.  Veteran Rezzak, the party’s most well known Muslim face, has announced the setting up of a Social Justice Platform’ (Samajik Nai Bichar Mancha).

 For the CPM, already doddering in their backyard, this is a major blow. With 27 percent Muslim voters, even the regimented Left has never send a show cause notice to normally outspoken Rezzak, who has publicly slammed his own party for inefficient leadership, age-old lame duck strategies and for doing absolutely nothing for minorities in the state.

 Rezzak, who has been assembly speaker since 1972, has hardly concealed his desire to leave the party which he labels as being ‘useless and polluted’. An earlier attempt by him to launch ‘Naya Zamana’ or New Era Forum did not quite work out. This time he appears more serious.

For doing so, Rezzak has opted for the Mayawati route; he attacks upper caste hegemony and wants a Dalit chief minister, a Muslim deputy chief minister and several OBC ministers in his dream cabinet. At the first convention of this newly-formed pro-Dalit and minority outfit attended by religious leaders from the minority communities on February 23,  Rezzak told the media, “We have never practiced the caste system but the fact is unless upper class hegemony finishes in the government, political parties and administration, nothing would be possible for Dalit and minority welfare.”

 Says veteran political analyst Uma Sankar Sanyal: “Without empowering the minorities in a political manner, true development can never happen. Rezzak is probably following Mayawati’s route.’’ Though the CPM rebel denies any connection with the BSP, the fact is all the 126 organisations which attended this convention believed that the ‘Left has failed to address the caste system in the state.’

 Quoting Amartya Sen, Rezzak Mollah said that because the caste issue has been handled sensibly by the Left in Kerala, there have been positive strides in education and awareness there. For good measure he adds that “in Bengal the role of the Left leaders is a complete zero.’’
 The veteran assembly speaker left no stone unturned to attack his parent party.

Alleging there was a lack of democracy in the party and  transparency remained primitive, he mocked, “Of course there lies an immediate need for party’s top to bottom rectification – from politburo to state committee level. Only then the process could be carry forwarded to the local level. But if the Gomukh itself is polluted, thinking of purifying Ganga at the downstream is absolutely bogus.”

Rezzak’s revolt, political analysts say, is going to help Mamata because he will draw away a large chunk of the Muslim vote that may have gone to the CPM. Which partially also explains the Bengal chief minister’s confidence to contest for the first time out of Bengal.

Rezzak has hinted that this social forum may not be the end of it; it could get converted into a political party which could contest as many as 185 out of the 294 assembly seats in 2016 when the state assembly goes to polls.

 He has not said a final goodbye to the CPM either. “It is not the right time to talk,’’ he says mysteriously. After launching scathing attacks on the CPM, he asserts the Social Justice Forum has not been formed to criticize the Left. “Basically we hope for the best and wish the Left every success, but what can be done if they don’t understand? They are free to take action against me. I don’t care. What am I doing, what my future plans are, no one has asked me. At 72 I will show them what I can do.’’ Brave words but are they for real?

 CPM sources however, say that “By not quitting the party, Rezzak is actually buying time. He wants to take a good look at the Lok Sabha polls, particularly his district South 24 Parganas. If CPM does well there, he will certainly go for a renewal of party membership.’’

 Rezzak has ruled out either opposing the CPM or supporting Trinamool Congress. That too could be tactical. Left sources say that “Soon a section of the minorities is going to lose their hope in Trinamool. CPM would gain but if Rezzak splits the vote, it will certainly help Mamata.”

 PDS leader Saifuddin Chaudhuri, however, told TSI that “The initiatives Rezzak Mollah is talking about would never help the minorities. It will help the Trinamool which mixes religion and politics.” Says Saifuddin: “It is hard to believe that a Communist leader is talking such nonsense. How can he presume that only a Dalit-CM could do the best?”

 Officially, the CPM is in no hurry to take action against a rebel who is pulling no punches. One party source said “A tortoise step is safer and better.’’ With a slide in their mass base, the CPM at Kolkata’s Alimuddin Street can ill afford more problems than it already has.
 Giving Rezzak company at the convention was the other rebel, CPM’s Haldia strongman Laxman Seth, a former party MP charged with being involved in forcible land acquisition at Nandigram followed by the infamous `massacre’ of March 14, 2007.

 CPM has never probed charges of corruption and anti-party activities against Seth in the past. Now a two-member commission is investigating alleged financial irregularities in his NGO. Seth shot off his resignation letter to the state leadership, though it has not been accepted.

 At the forum convention, Seth said that “The CPM leadership has acted undemocratically by dropping me from the state committee when I was in jail. They didn’t even inform me.’’ The man from Haldia also criticized the CPM terming it as ‘authoritarian’ and ‘centered on an individual’.

 The individual in question here is politburo member and former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Seth on one occasion compared him to Mikhail Gorbachev under whom the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. He has called the CPM system, “Much worse than a bourgeois system.’’

According to sources, the CPM may not take as lenient a view of Seth as they have done of Rezzak. Confides a leader: “It is probably the beginning of the end for Seth. He has invited harsh action against himself. In a party like CPM, such anti-party remarks have never been tolerated.”

But before the Lok Sabha vote, the CPM is only thinking of elections and assessing its ramifications. Since its defeat in 2011, the once-vocal Left has been largely inactive. It has failed to engage the Trinamool government in any significant way: most scams in the state have not been highlighted by the Left-led opposition which has not played the role expected of it. The CPM’s response to a series of rapes in the state has been muted and its silence in the Sarada chit fund scam has come as a surprise even to its supporters. They say it is difficult to believe that a front like the Left, which has been at the forefront of many  agitations, has gone into a shell. A Mamata-led Parivartan might have swept off 34 years of Left rule but Seth, a Tamluk MP, is learnt to still wield considerable influence in the east-Midnapur district. Now with news spreading of him having offers from the Samajwadi party, the political plot is getting thicker.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017