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Change leadership, Somnath tells Left

Change leadership, Somnath tells Left

Kolkata: Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee Wednesday suggested that the Left should consider a change of guard in their erstwhile citadel West Bengal, in view of the repeated electoral drubbings they have suffered lately.

The octogenarian barrister-leader used the analogy of sports coaches getting the sack for failure of their teams, to drive home his point.

Chatterjee's comments, coming a day after the Left Front received a drubbing in the civic polls, drew varied responses from the Left Front (LF) partners.

While his former party Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) found fault with the coach analogy, some other LF partners went into introspective mood regretting the absence of struggles and inability to rectify mistakes.

Speaking on the sidelines of a programme here, Chatterjee said: "Leftist politics in the state has gone weak. I appeal to the Left parties to undertake a review. The future is important, and not power."

"At every level, success depends on the general, captain or leader. I have seen in sports that coaches get the boot if the team fails to perform. Something like that needs to be done," said Chatterjee, who was a front-ranking CPI-M leader for decades until he was expelled from the party in 2008.

Chatterjee regretted that the politics upholding the interests of people, the toiling masses, workers, peasants and the middle classes had become weak.

"To safeguard their interests, we need real Left politics. But this politics has weakened."

The Left Front won only one municipality while the ruling Trinamool Congress bagged eight and the Congress two in the civic polls. In July, the Trinamool had swept the panchayat (rural body) elections.

The Left Front ruled the state for 34 years since 1977 before it was voted out in 2011

Reacting to the remarks, CPI-M central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty said: "He is a veteran leader. He has said what he thought was right."

"But I do not agree with his comparison between a sports coach and a Left leader. Coaches can be bought, but not communist leaders."

All India Forward Bloc leader Naren Chatterjee claimed the former speaker's target was the CPI-M and not the Left as a whole.

"As a veteran leader he can give his suggestions. His words have value. I don't see anything abnormal in what he has said."

Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar said: "It is true that in the present situation, if we cannot launch struggles and movements, then things won't change.

"At the same time, if we don't rectify the mistakes and follies which have pushed people away from us, and set right the wrong trends in behaviour and lifestyle, then we cannot make a comeback."

Revolutionary Socialist Party state secretary Khiti Goswami said Chatterjee's advice had some merit.

"He is a senior leader, who has had a long stint in Left politics. You can't summarily dismiss the utterances of such a leader. At the same time leadership has to grow, and cannot be created overnight. The mass acceptability of a leader has to be built over time.

"In the natural process, there will be change, but it will come gradually," he said.

"Tomorrow if we say a particular new leader is the new Biman Bose (now LF chairman and CPI-M state secretary), or the new Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (former state chief minister), people will not go by that," Goswami added.

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