The central committee of the CPI (M) will now take a final call on Banerjee’s fate. But, party sources said it is more than certain that the former student leader would be expelled from the party.
The CPI (M) currently has seven MPs in the Rajya Sabha. In August, the CPI (M) central committee voted against a third term for party chief Sitaram Yechury, despite the Congress offering its support to get the leader elected from West Bengal. The seat went to a Congress MP.
Banerjee’s expulsion from the party would bring the CPI (M) strength further down to six in the Rajya Sabha. Banerjee’s expulsion, however, would ensure that he can serve out his Rajya Sabha term as an ‘unattached’ member.
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has given a week’s time to Yadav and Anwar to respond to JD (U) plea that they be disqualified from the Rajya Sabha. JD (U) is confident that Yadav and Anwar might be disqualified before the winter session of Parliament in November, while Yadav is keen to fight a court battle. The JD (U) is now an ally of the BJP, and an election on Yadav and Anwar’s seats would further increase the strength of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, but has improved its numbers in recent months with the JD (U) joining the alliance and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) also showing its keenness to support the government on key issues. The BJP is keen that AIADMK joins the NDA.
The CPI (M) Bengal unit had earlier suspended Banerjee from the party for three months. He was also sacked from the state committee of the West Bengal unit of the party in June.
Banerjee’s crime, according to senior party sources, was that he had a “lavish lifestyle”. The leader was pilloried inside the party and on social media by party workers and sympathisers for wearing an Apple smartwatch, carrying a Mont Blanc pen, and wishing to buy a “big car”. An internal party inquiry committee found him guilty of leaking information to the media and indulging in a “lavish lifestyle”.
In a recent television interview, Banerjee accused some of the party leaders of conspiring against him. Banerjee has proved to be one of the better parliamentarians of the CPI (M) in the Rajya Sabha and was seen as a rising star. This, 37-year-old Banerjee said, led to jealousy within the party.
The expulsion, however, would be a blessing in disguise for Banerjee. It would allow Banerjee to serve out his Rajya Sabha term. Elected to the Upper House in 2014, Banerjee’s term ends in April 2020. The CPI (M) currently has seven members in the Rajya Sabha.
According to sources, Banerjee along with a couple of discontented Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders could come together, both in Parliament as well as in the state politics. The BJP has made serious efforts to be an alternative pole to Mamata Banerjee-led TMC in the Bengal politics. However, the BJP is in need of leaders with profile in the state and keen on importing from other parties.
While Banerjee might save his seat, the JD (U) is determined to get dissident leaders Yadav and Anwar disqualified. Close on the heels of the Election Commission rejecting Yadav’s plea that he represented the “real” JD (U), the party has written to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu asking him to disqualify Yadav. The party has argued that Yadav has attended political rallies of other parties, particularly of Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)’s public rally in Patna on August 27. “This, under the rules, is a clear case of the leader quitting the party voluntarily,” KC Tyagi, JD (U) national general secretary, says.