CPI-M, Chidambaram political standoff over letter (Roundup)

Monday, December 27, 2010

KOLKATA - Political temperatures soared Monday in West Bengal, where assembly elections are due in 2011, with the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Monday flaying union Home Minister P. Chidambaram for his “partisan approach” and asked him to explain how his letter to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was leaked to the media.

An angry Bhattacharjee said he would give a “befitting reply” Tuesday to Chidambaram’s missive that alleged that the state’s ruling Marxists had set up armed camps in Maoist-prone areas. “For the last few days there has been much talk about a ‘letter’. This morning I have received the letter sent by Chidambaram. But that letter has already been published in the media three-four days back.

“Tomorrow I will give the reply. I will give a befitting reply tomorrow,” said Bhattacharjee at a public rally.

Bhattacharjee accused Chidambaram of sending the letter to appease the Trinamool Congress, which is a partner of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

“I will remind him that we all know that Trinamool and Congress are having an alliance. But does he also support the unholy nexus of Trinamool and Maoists? If he does, then that’s dangerous,” he added.

Trinamool chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, the state’s main opposition leader, has been persistently demanding withdrawal of the central paramilitary forces form the Maoist areas claiming the CPI-M was using them to run armed camps and capture political turf.

In a hard-hitting statement, the CPI-M politbureau said: “This is a strange way of communication between the union home minister and the chief minister of a state. The media is fully briefed about the letter even before the chief minister gets it.”

“This shows that the purpose of the letter is to serve the political interests of the Trinamool Congress, which is part of the union government. The union home minister owes an explanation for this partisan approach,” said the statement.

Chidambaram had said in the letter that complaints received by the central government “indicate that armed cadres of the CPI-M were deployed in a covert manner under the guise of ‘village protection groups’ to guard against Naxal (Maoist) attacks.

“There is evidence to show that the camps are mostly located in CPI-M offices and those of local cadres. It is a matter of grave concern that these cadres have been provided with firearms,” he had said.

CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat also attacked the home minister for “writing such a letter” and “leaking it to the media”. “This is not the right approach for proper centre-state relations,” he said in Delhi.

A couple of hours after the state government confirmed that it has received the letter Monday morning, CPI-M state secretary and ruling Left front chairman Biman Bose called the “leak” “unthinkable” and “uncalled for”.

While the Trinamool said it would give its views on the letter after discussing it in the party forum, Banerjee rushed to the Raj Bhawan and had a 45-minute meeting with Governor M.K. Narayanan. She, however, said it was only a “courtesy meeting”.

The state is slated to go to the polls by May next year, with the Trinamool-led opposition throwing a formidable challenge to the Left Front government, which has been in power for a record 33 years.

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