Kolkata, July 26 : The Congress high command has apparently failed to create a rift in Bengal CPI(M) over Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee's role in connection with the trust vote which has given a new lease of life to the beleaguered UPA government.
Happy over the manner in which Chatterjee defied the party whip to quit office before the trust vote and handled the Lok Sabha proceedings with a firm hand, the high command has urged him to continue in his post till the next general elections. The Congress expected a "sympathy wave" in favour of Chatterjee after his summary expulsion from the party by the CPI(M) politburo. But apart from the UPA partners and their new-found ally, Samajwadi party, no other political outfit has expressed regret over the disciplinary action initiated by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat.
As far as Chatterjee's home state is concerned, only two individual CPI(M) leaders, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and MP Tarit Topdar, expressed regret over his expulsion, but did not challenge Karat's decision. Veteran Marxist and former chief minister Jyoti Basu, who is believed to be close to the Lok Sabha Speaker, too has been keeping mum over the matter.
One of the reasons for Chatterjee's failure to mobilize sympathy from the CPI(M)'s Bengal unit even after serving the party for the past four decades is the absence of a solid support base. He does not have a major following now even in Bolpur in Birbhum district which returned him to Lok Sabha last time. Besides, as the Lok Sabha Speaker in the UPA regime he had little time to spare for the state party affairs.
According to informed sources, the CPI(M)'s central leadership feels Chatterjee's refusal to obey the party line and the Congress's current attempts to woo him have fully vindicated the disciplinary action taken against him by the politburo. The party will feel free to publicly criticize him if he decides to continue in office with the UPA's support.
Bengal's opposition parties, however, are divided over Chatterjee's role during the trust vote. While the state Congress has justified his decision to remain in his chair, defying the party directive, Trinamul Congress has been critical of his decision. TMC chairperson Mamata Banerjee feels Chatterjee should have resigned from his post before the trust vote as his name figured in the list of MPs submitted by his party to the President, indicating withdrawal of support to the UPA government. Incidentally, Banerjee had defeated Chatterjee in the 1984 Lok Sabha polls and earned the epithet, "the giant killer of Jadavpur." y Gautam Ghosh