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Millennium Post

When trickle turns to torrent

Initially the trend was restricted to grassroots level activists in the districts. But now the infection has affected mid level leaders as well.

Kolkata district Forward Bloc secretary Moinuddin Shams has resigned and joined the TMC with his family members. His reason: the humiliation suffered by his late father Kalimuddin Shams, who pressed the wrong button while voting for a Left-nominated Rajya Sabha nominee, in the state Assembly, on one occasion. He had been the Deputy Speaker of the house for long, besides working as food minister.

Interestingly, his son Moinuddin, lawyer by profession, has chosen this moment to dig up an incident buried deep in the state Assembly’s ancient history! His father died years ago. Yet this has been the son’s grouse and main cause of for quitting the Bloc, of which he was a leader of some importance. Veteran party general secretary Ashok Ghosh apparently chastised his father somewhat unceremoniously! ‘I can never forget the incident,’ Shams Jr told newsmen here, as one of his reasons for quitting. A general disillusionment with the party’s working was another. Barely 48 hours later, Shams was announcing his joining, who else, but the ruling TMC, with his family members. Present at the news conference was Mukul Roy, the all India secretary of the TMC.

The reaction within the Left camp was not surprising. Opposition leader in the State Assembly Suryakanta Mishra of the CPI(M) said people were free to join any party they preferred. As for those within the Left, who wanted to leave, it was better that they did so without delay.

‘If they tell us they want out, we can make it easy for them by throwing them out through disciplinary action,’ he said. Apparently there was no question of the Left making any effort to stem the flow of desertions. Within the Bloc too, a doomsday feeling was palpable. Ghosh faced opposition over his choice of a person who would replace Shams as the Kolkata District unit Secretary. The matter remained unresolved in the face of some acrimony.

Publicly, Left leaders have maintained that there have occurred no desertions to the enemy camp from their ranks. But Left insiders relate a different tale in private.

The fact is, even from within the CPI(M), the mainstay of the Left Front, leaders at the level of Civic body councillors and different District committees have in recent times joined the TMC. In particular, such a trend has been seen in the North Bengal districts.

At the organisational level, too, the present drift-like situation within the Left camp, which has been unable to drum up much public support for its recent campaigns, has taken its toll. In North 24 Parganas, in south Bengal, pro Subhas Chakravarty leaders in the District committee who have also worked for the party’s TU arm, CITU, have worked out local adjustments with the TMC. Outcome: despite lack of investments, economic stagnation and closures, there has occurred no movements among workers, TU action has been restricted to steps taken by local TMC-affiliated Unions only.
The failure of the party leadership to devise any effective plan of action to mobilise people against the TMC has been palpable. Dwindling popular support has led to a demoralisation among the ranks. The seniors had begun quitting after 2007. Now the trickle has turned into a torrent. Making a virtue out of necessity, the CPI(NM) has sought to counter the present negative inner party trends ,announcing a two-pronged approach. First, new faces are being put up in different elections and second, the ‘purification’ campaign is being strengthened.

Since the second part of the programme has hurt a very small number of lower level faceless cadre, leaving the ‘big fish’ untouched despite their controversial activities at the ground level, the cleansing campaign has not impressed too many people.

But questions have been raised even about the first part of the party’s present tactics, preferring newcomers over their seniors in handling party responsibilities.

For instance, CPI(M) leaders point out that in the coming elections for the prestigious Howrah civic polls, at least 15/16 newcomers will contest, as the old timers have been given a rest.

Howrah insiders however, tell a different story. Given the present anti-Left political trend sweeping the State, experienced leaders who continue to enjoy a measure of local importance and prominence, are in no mood to contest again. The reason: the spectre of certain defeat, which would effectively end their political careers.

Facing such general reluctance, party leaders have had no choice but to select younger men still willing to try out their luck at the firing line. It may be recalled that CPI(M) student leader Abhas Roy Choudhury was put up as a candidate for the Assembly elections in 2011, as part of the ‘follow the youth’ drive. He lost.

The only consolation for the Left is that while it is facing the problem of desertion, the Cong(I) has it much worse. Leaders and followers have left to join the TMC is droves in recent times.

 The influx of ‘outsiders’ is creating its own problems for the TMC. Naturally newcomers must be won over by positions of importance and power within the party. This causes resentment and struggles among old TMC workers and leaders. Newcomer Cong(I) leader Sukhendu Narayan Choudhury has been made a Minister , causing heartburn among older party faithful. ‘Old’ TU leader Sobhandeb Chatterjee does not conceal his disapproval Dola Sen and Purnendu Bose, ‘new’ TU leader and Minister respectively.  But so long as their party the TMC remains in power, there is little likelihood that anybody would quit to join any other party in the opposition – not as yet.
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