Dissident CPI-M leader and former MP Lakshman Seth Wednesday demanded change in the party leadership and lavished praise on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, saying she possesses guts and has grown into a mature political administrator.
Iterating that he felt pain "at the activities of the party leadership", Seth said: "The party has given a slogan that says it wants change in policy, not leadership. But the policy does not come from heaven. I'd rather say the policy cannot be changed if there was no change in the leadership."
Seth also found fault with Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member and former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's comments that the party could support the Congress to keep the BJP out of power, if there was no other alternative after the Lok Sabha polls.
"This is doublespeak. On the one hand we are talking of maintaining equi-distance from the Congress and the BJP. On the other hand, we are saying that we may support the Congress if such a need arises. This is not done," said Seth, who wielded immense clout in the East Midnapore district during the last decade of the CPI-M led Left Front's 34-year rule.
He contended that no one should assume that people are "fools". "If we think people will believe, whatever we say, it is not that easy."
Seth, who has fallen out with the party over its decision to probe graft charges against him, said the people have not erred in voting out the CPI-M led Left Front from power in 2011.
"The people did not make any mistake by defeating us in the 2011 assembly polls, or the 2009 Lok Sabha election. They rightly rose to the occasion. It was our failure."
Seth then heaped praise on Trinamool chief Banerjee, whose regime had cracked down on him for allegedly plotting violent incidents in Nandigram in 2007. Seth is now out on bail after spending 118 days in police and jail custody.
"Now at times I feel Mamata Banerjee has matured as a political administrator. Under her, West Bengal has recovered a lot from the dismal situation it was in," he told a TV channel.
In what could be music to Banerjee's ears, Seth said the Junglemahal, where the Maoists had a strong base for years, was now "peaceful" and everything was "quiet". "The Maoists have almost been finished."
"The same thing holds true for the hills (in northern West Bengal)," said the ex-Lok sabha member from Tamluk in East Midnapore, referring to the Gorkhaland agitation.
"Mamata has lot of guts. She says with conviction that she would not allow any division of Bengal. We could not say the same with this much conviction when we were in power," he added.
The two-member panel constituted to inquire into corruption and anti-party activities against Seth, had been heckled by his loyalists in the East Midnapore district recently.
Seth is under the scanner following the sale of a medical and a dental college in Haldia of the district to a private business group for a whopping amount.
However, with the general elections approaching, CPI-M state secretary Biman Bose claimed two days back that the party had not formed any commission against Seth.