Thursday, January 15, 2009

Somnath Chatterjee planning hostile takeover bids

Bengal BahadursKolkata. Top political circles in India have witnessed a spike in interest in the moves of Speaker Somnath Chatterjee. The leader, who is most perturbed about the fierce fighter’s motives, is the equally vehement fighter from West Bengal – Mamata Banerjee.

The estranged Marxist patriarch is now reliably learnt to be chalking out a strategy for a hostile takeover bid. There are two opinions about the likely takeover target – the CPM itself and Mamatadi’s Trinamool Congress, both of which are considered as sitting ducks.

Despite his expulsion, Somnathda commands a sizable following within the party, having been a party leader in the Lok Sabha for 15 long years, before becoming Speaker. Even as Speaker, Chatterjee had not left the party; he even authorized the government to remit a part of his salary to CPM’s account according to party rules.

Somnathda keeps hopping from place to place, as is usual whenever Parliament is not in session. As usual, he is being hounded by media persons at every airport. Again, as usual, he has been offering good copy to journalists. The Speaker has been forthcoming with poignant responses – as well as poignant silences – on speculations floating about him.

The Speaker’s TRP has started going up again as a result; just like it did during the run up to the vote in the Lok Sabha on US-India nuke deal last year, and the sack he got from CPM in its aftermath. He has not stopped foxing political analysts, compelling them to brush up their skills in reading between lines.

It was a letter addressed to Biman Bose, state party secretary of CPM in West Bengal by transport minister and state committee member and Subhash Chakraborty that triggered the current wave of suppositions. A staunch fan of the veteran, Chakraborty wants Somnathda back in the party.

The ‘rebel’ minister told reporters, “I feel the politburo ’s decision to expel Somnathda was wrong and that is why I wrote to Bimanda to take him back. I want Bimanda to take up the matter with the central committee.” Pleased at politburo member Sitaram Yechury’s statement that the central committee could indeed “discuss any proposal if it comes from the state committee”, he offered to treat media persons with rossagollas when his idol is taken back.

Chatterjee, adopting his usual inimitable style, recalled the remark he made upon getting expelled from the party for “seriously compromising the position of the party.” He had said: “It (July 23) was one of the saddest days of my life.” He added afresh, “I never appealed against the decision of the party then; never criticized it, even then.”

About his return to active politics, the Speaker’s response contrasted the forthright manner of his one-time Rajya Sabha compatriot and fellow-octogenarian, Shekhawat. “I won’t appeal,” was all that Somnathda would volunteer. Asking reporters to draw their own inferences, he said: “I am not going to contest (elections??) anymore. Physically, I do not think I can carry on much further (in politics??).” Chatterjee dismissed as “hypothetical” the probability of his return to the LS in case he doesn’t have to ‘contest’ or even ‘appeal’.

This has naturally left Mamata Banerjee, the only MP of Trinamool Congress in LS quite uncomfortable. Mamatadi has the distinction of being behind the one single defeat he ever suffered in his bid; Chatterjee has been an LS member for a record 10 terms so far. The two ‘invincible’ players have always been like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.

The firebrand leader was furious at this reporter when asked to rate the chances of her bĂȘte noire succeeding in his attempts to make a hostile bid to gain management control in Trinamool Congress.

She shouted, “Of course, it may help him to break his own record by entering LS for the 11th time, and perhaps becoming a Speaker again. But, aren’t you aware of the Tata Motors story and the sort of fights I am capable of?” She added that Tatas had finalized a deal only for a friendly takeover of mismanagement control of the state. Her objection was only that it was Buddhadebda, whom she detested. She neither confirmed nor denied that she is willing to let Somnathda in if he makes a friendly bid for a strategic partnership.

Strangely enough, ideologues of CPM view this development as an opportunity to recall the senior without looking too awkward. Chatterjee’s tie-up with Mamatadi can provide credible ground to the politburo for citing a precedent for taking back expelled leaders. Although there is no provision in the party constitution in this regard, it had made an exception in the case of Nripen Chakraborty.

That Chakraborty was expelled in 1995 and reinstated two days before his death in 2004. Subhash Chakraborty reasoned: “No one will dispute it if we say that teaming up with Mamatadi is the same as death. Ask former Speaker PA Sangma, ask former Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, anyone who dared to do that in the past!”

(This exclusive scoop has been brought to you by chhuchhundarbaba)


Ramesh Srivats said...

Some speeches for some er...leaders

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