Party poses challenge to ‘brand Buddha’

Kolkata, May 29 :

Buddhadeb proposes, a dinosaur called communist party disposes.

That was the week that was, with Brand Buddha challenged by party doctrines and their hardline proponents, despite a great beginning by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in his second innings as West Bengal chief minister. First came the bounty and then the brickbats, and the process of reining in a Buddha unbound.

Bhattacharya began well with Tata Motors announcing on the very day of swearing in on May 18 that it would locate their coveted Rs 100,000 Indian Currency (IC) small car project in West Bengal’s Hooghly district. Hardly had Ratan Tata left that evening came announcements of an IT park and LCD screen TV manufacturing project by the Videocon group in Salt Lake. But controversy was a step behind.

Agroup of angry and concer-ned farmers ghe-raoing a Tata Motors land recce team for the car project, paving the way for the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) hawks to take out their long knives against the chief minister’s ‘ham-handedness’ on the issue of land acquisition for industry. The chief minister faced flak from his colleagues, with the attack led by his 92-year-old predecessor Jyoti Basu, for not educating the party cadre over the deal with Tata Motors to build a small car here.

“What has happened is very bad. We need land for industry but Tata Motors should have been prepared for that,” Basu said, “I have asked Buddha why they did not prepare the-m. The party and Krishak Sabha (peasant wing of the CPI-M) sho-uld have been informed and pre-pared as well. Th-is should have never happen-ed.” But while Basu rap-ped Buddha on the issue, politburo member Sita-ram Yechury went a step further saying farmlands that yield multiple crops should not be taken up for industrial purposes.

With elections over, it was also the turn of CPI-M state secretary Biman Bose to take on the very expression ‘Brand Buddha’. Bose defended the chief minister’s industrial policy and land acquisition moves but flayed the ‘Brand Buddha’ propaganda by the media.

“Brand Buddha slogan is aimed at derailing the career of Buddhadeb. First jack him up and then fling him to the ground. That is media policy,” he said. In a stance that negates the liberalism of Bhattacharya, Yechury o-pposed modernisation of Kolkata airport by private parties despite the state government’s eagerness to sacrifice ideological sh-ibboleths at altar of pro-development politics.

But the Left Front government has said that it is not averse to the modernisation of the airport in keeping with the central policy of private groups undertaking the job. West Bengal industry minister Nirupam Sen added that the state government would not oppose the central government’s move to get Kol-kata airport modernised by private groups if New Delhi refused to entrust the work to the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Bhattacharya kept quiet amid all these noises.

When it comes to investment no country is untouchable for Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. So burying a past controversy, Bhattacharya is preparing to visit the US soon to woo investors. He is sending his chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb and industry secretary Saby-asachi Sen to Washington in early June to finalise the roadmap of his visit. The chief minister, who since taking office has stepped on the gas for more investment, has made it amply clear that he has no qualms about wooing American investors despite political opposition to US policies.

With the odds within the party heavily against him, it remains to be seen how far the Captain Cour-ageous of the seventh Left Front government manages to push forward his own liberal policies.

The real test of Brand Buddha has begun.