Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee scored some major political points against her arch rival Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) when its labour wing, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), finally called off a 24-hour transport strike in West Bengal in July 31 in the face of her strong opposition and pressure tactics.
CITU decided to withdraw the July 31 strike after CPI-M state secretary and Left Front chairman Biman Bose asked it to do so.
Calling off the strike, meant to protest the recent increase in petrol and diesel prices, was also promoted by dissent from the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Forward Bloc, two key constituents of the Left Front, who alleged that the CPI-M had taken the decision on the stir without consulting them.
As a result, the two parties decided to oppose the strike.
Not surprisingly, the Trinamool Congress took a dig at its biggest political opponent as party MP Derek O'Brien was quick to suggest that the CPI-M was "totally isolated by its partners and had no choice" but to call off the strike.
This is the second time when the rift within the opposition Left Front in Bengal was quite visible after the issue of supporting Pranab Mukherjee in the July 19 presidential poll had brought a virtual split in the Front's unity.
Earlier, the chief minister's effort to take away winds out of CITU's sails paid off. Following her threat to take stern actions against bus owners participating in the strike by canceling their licenses and permits, the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, a body of bus owners in the state that had also called for a strike July 31 demanding hike in fares
due to rise in fuel prices, decided to defer it.
CITU's decision to withdraw the strike call was a significant political win for Banerjee after her Trinamool Congress decimated the Left Front in the assembly elections last May.
The 57-year old firebrand leader, who has consistently been accused of playing the populist card to score a few cheap political points and not being fit to wear the mantle of an "able administrator" even after becoming the chief minister, proved her critics wrong on this occasion.
It was because of her stern measures to tackle the proposed strike, West Bengal, which once had been a frontline state in respect of industry but later suffered huge drain of capital allegedly due to extreme trade unionism, escaped a colossal loss of man-hours and productivity.
Political observers feel that CPI-M's move to ask CITU to withdraw the strike was also triggered by its internal dilemma.
Some quarters within the party had pointed out that the strike might not go down well with the general public and the party, which witnessed a sharp slide in its vote bank in the assembly elections, could not afford a further jolt to its mass base ahead of next year's panchayat polls.
And when other constituents of the Left Front like the CPI and the Forward Bloc expressed their dissent, followed by bus owners' decision to defer their July 31 strike, the CPI-M's Biman Bose took no time to ask CITU to withdraw it.
Following a letter written by Bose, Shyamal Chakraborty, president of the West Bengal CITU, announced that the strike had been called off.
Although, Bose, in his letter, pointed out that the Left Front had already chalked out an August 1-3 campaign on the same issue, the message is loud and clear.
Didi surely scored some points in this round.