It is possibly for the first time, nay second time, that the CPI-M is facing a rebellion of sorts. The CPI-M central committee, packed with theoreticians largely from hi-fi universities in Delhi, has hurt the pride of the Bengal tiger?as the party has nicknamed the West Bengal unit.
The Bengal tiger had growled once earlier too but this time it has started roaring. It has yet not reached to the point of schism but a fissure has certainly developed.
The way party'ssenior most leader and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has been insulted (by expelling from the party) to echo the feelings of its West Bengal minister Subhash Chakravarti, it has severely hurt the Bengali feelings. Is not general secretary Prakash Karat going beyond his brief? That is the question rocking the cadre in the state. Chakravarti has only echoed that.
The growing feeling is that Chatterjee is being targeted as he is from Bengal and the leaders away from Bengal want to control the party. The reaction of the Kerala CPI-M against Chatterjee is being presented as a case in point.
Most leaders from Bengal, in private, admit that Chatterjee had done no wrong by deciding to continue as Speaker as it is the norm in a parliamentary democracy. Many of them have not taken the rhetorics of Karat kindly though for the sake of ?discipline? they have not come out in the open. They feel that Chatterjee has been unnecessarily being dragged into a controversy. They praise him not only for being unanimously elected by all the parties in the Lok Sabha, which is attributed to his personal relations with all the party leaders, but also for impeccably conducting himself during the past over four years.
The Bengal unit'sgrouse is not restricted to the present episode. It has drawn parallels from history. The Delhi-based central committee on earlier occasions also had stalled the leaders from Bengal from getting into highest offices.
The leaders from Bengal have not forgotten how again another general secretary of the party Harkishan Singh Surjeet had put spokes when the United Front had offered prime ministership to Jyoti Basu. The party leaders aver that it could have added feather to the party'scap.
The second time, the party leaders feel, the central committee came in the way of Somnath Chatterjee being proposed as a presidential candidate. The UPA had no objection to it. But the party not only blocked his way but also agreed to play a second fiddle to the Congress in presidential elections.
The decision, party leaders opine, has sent the feelings that it is incapable of taking a lead. ?It has sent a message that the party can make noise and destabilise but can'ttake a constructive approach?.
They do not mind asking the question whether both the leaders had been barred from having the highest positions because they were from West Bengal.
The state leadership is worried also for another reason. The recent panchayat elections have exposed the party'svulnerability in the state. The steel frame may be crumbling, the leaders from Bengal feel. Had a leader from Bengal got the highest position, it could have helped the party garner support in the name of bringing pride to the state.
However, now they feel the central committee'svirtual tirade against Chatterjee might further shrink its base in the state apart from causing discontent in the cadre.
Would the party leaders defy the central committee? As of now it does not seem likely. The discontent, however, is simmering. The Bengal unit might not take it lying down. How it would react is not known. It is, however, likely that it could lead to a reorganisation of the politburo. The demand has not yet been vociferously made but the ire against Karat is getting gradually embroiled.
The future course is not easy to predict in such a monolithic party. As the course is developing it may usher in a new era within CPI-M. It may lead to yielding many paces to the Bengal unit. Would that mean a major change? The coming months may unfold that.
(The writer is senior political writer.)