Surjya Kanta Mishra CPI-M’s new West Bengal secretary

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Kolkata: The CPI-M Friday named Surjya Kanta Mishra, leader of opposition in the West Bengal assembly, as its new state secretary, ushering in a change of guard at a time the party is going through one of its lowest phase in the erstwhile red citadel.

Mishra’s name was proposed by outgoing state secretary Biman Bose and seconded by party politburo member and former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the first meeting of the newly elected state committee, said senior CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury.

Bose, who took over the reins of the party in 2006 after the demise of Anil Biswas, became the first West Bengal state secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist to demit office in his lifetime. All his four predecessors – Promode Dasgupta, Saroj Mukehrjee, Sailen Dasgupta and Biswas – had died in office.

Briefing media persons on the concluding day of the CPI-M’s 24th state conference, Yechury said Mishra’s election was unanimous.

“The state committee was unanimously elected from the conference. The first meeting of the new committee had only one agenda – election of new state secretary. It was done in only five minutes as there was no other name except that of Mishra,” he said.

The 65-year-old Mishra, a physician, first got into the limelight for his laudable work as sabhadhipati (president) of the undivided Midnapore zilla parishad (district council) 1978-1991. Later, he held key portfolios of panchayat, rural development, land and land reforms and health in the Left Front ministries of Jyoti Basu and Bhattachacharjee.

Mishra, who has been winning from the Narayangarh assembly seat in West Midnapore since 1991, was among a handful of Left Front leaders to retain his seat in the 2011 polls, when the Marxists were voted out of power.

After the elections, he was made leader of opposition in the assembly and his role has often been praised by the top party leadership.

On his fresh assignment, Mishra said: “For us, getting a new post means extended responsibility and commitment. We are committed not only to the party, but also to the crores of workers, and victims of social discrimination.”

He said he would carry out his responsibility “till the last drop of my blood” and promised that the entire party would take on the challenge of combating the twin dangers of autocracy and communalism – a reference to the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP at the Centre.

Asked how he felt at being made the state secretary when the party was going through tough times in Bengal, Mishra said: “Yes, these are difficult times for the party, but I don’t think that my job is tougher than that of my predecessors who built the party brick by brick through the food movement, semi fascist terror. The Communist Party also had fought against British colonialism.”

He spoke of a broad-based Left unity and said the party would strive to launch struggles by reaching up to the people irrespective of political affiliations and rallying the left, democratic and secular forces.

The state conference elected a 85-member state committee. There were 23 fresh faces, and ten women, while ten other members came from minority communities.

Targeting both the Trinamool Congress and the BJP in West Bengal, the conference chalked out a five-point political programme railing against “corruption and autocracy” perpetrated by the state’s ruling party and the “divisive strategies” of the communal forces.

The Marxists came up with the “immediate agitation programme” that made the ruling Trinamool the brunt of its attack. It also laid stress on industrialisation and opening of closed units, security of livelihood for peasants and urged the party workers to immerse themselves in the campaign for next month’s municipal polls.

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