Thursday, May 24, 2007

Left Front govt’s annus horribilis

Pranesh Sarkar

KOLKATA, May 18: “United we stand, divided we fall” was the mantra behind the Left Front’s success in emerging as the ruling front in the state seven consecutive times. But on the first anniversary of the seventh Left Front government, there’s a twist in the tale.
Differences between chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and some of his Cabinet colleagues, particularly from the smaller Left parties, are now clearly visible. This conflict within the government has become more evident after various ministers criticised the government’s stand on several issues over the past year.
The growing chasm between Mr Bhattacharjee and his colleagues first came to light when Mr Kshiti Goswami, PWD minister, and Mr Nandagopal Bhattacharya, water resources minister, raised their voices against police atrocities on protesting villagers in Singur. Post-Singur, differences became more visible over acquisition of land for setting up industries. Apart from the PWD and water resources ministers, Mr Bhattacharjee’s land and land reforms minister, Mr Abdur Razzak Molla, also expressed his dissatisfaction over forcible acquisition of farmland. And he did so repeatedly.
When 14 residents fell to police bullets in Nandigram while protesting against land acquisition, the chinks in the Cabinet became wider. After the Nandigram episode, a number of ministers criticised the state government’s policy openly. Differences over other policy ~ and personality ~ issues too were evident. Veteran Forward Bloc leader and agriculture minister Mr Naren Dey offered his resignation after the chief minister criticised his department’s “failures” at a public meeting. The elections to the Cricket Association of Bengal proved yet another divisive issue for an allegedly cohesive Cabinet. Though Mr Bhattacharjee did not, this time around, publicly support Kolkata Police Commissioner Mr Prasun Mukherjee’s candidature for CAB president, a senior minister, alleged that the CM’s office was actively garnering votes for Mr Mukherjee. The drama ended only when the rebel-without-a-pause, Mr Subhas Chakraborty, was persuaded not to push it by filing his own nomination for the CAB president’s post.
Today, on the first anniversary of the seventh Left Front government, some ministers admitted to The Statesman that they did sometimes have ideas different from those of the government. Mr Kshiti Goswami termed it a manifestation of “ideological differences”. Other ministers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that whenever the Buddha administration took “irrational steps” they had to protest... for the “benefit” of the Left Front. A year of woes it certainly was.


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