CPI-M publicly warns party MP, to draft guidelines for social media use

Kolkata, Feb 23 (IANS) The CPI-M on Thursday issued a “public warning’ to its Rajya Sabha member Ritabrata Banerjee for threatening a party supporter who had raised questions in the social media about the source of funds of the young leader’s expensive watch and pen.

Simultaneously, it has decided to formulate guidelines on the use of social media by party members, barring comments on issues where the party was yet to finalist its stand.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist’s West Bengal state committee issued the warning to Banerjee during its two-day meeting that ended during the day.

“The state committee has criticised the behaviour of its member-cum-MP Ritabrata Banerjee and given him a public warning with regard to a controversy over the social media,” the party said in a statement.

The issue related to a Facebook post by a party worker who pasted a photo of Banerjee watching a East Bengal-Mohun Bagan soccer match in Siliguri on February 12. The worker pointed to the MP’s Mont Blanc pen and Apple smartwatch and questioned how – despite being a party wholetimer – he could afford such expensive gadgets.

As the post became viral, Banerjee took umbrage, and threatened to lodge a police complaint against the worker for making “hate speeches” and maligning him on social media. The MP further mailed the human resource department of the Bengaluru-based start up where the worker was employed and asked them to “look into the matter”.

Banerjee’s e-mail also got leaked on the social media, triggering a wave of protests against his behaviour.

An embarrassed CPI-M central leadership asked the state committee – of which Banerjee is a member – to deal with the issue.

On Wednesday, Banerjee apologised to the party’s state secretariat for shooting off a mail to the party worker’s employer.

Addressing the media after the state committee session on Thursday, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said it was wrong on the part of the MP to send a missive to the employer of the person who lodged a complaint.

He said the guidines would be issued both at the national and state levels on use of the social media platforms with regard to matters involving the party.

Members could post comments on issues where the party has made known its position, but not on subjects where the party is yet to clear its stand, he added.

Regarding airing of grievances, the CPI-M chief said there were proper forums in the party where complaints and grievances were dealt with in a time-bound manner according to the party constitution.

“Anyone has the right in the party to make complaint against anyone up to the General Secretary. But to air such comments through social media is not the party norm. Our central committee will issue a guideline on this.

“For some months now we have been discussing the matter in the Central Committee. Social media does not provide licence to any party member to violate party disciplinary principles or to violate the party’s principles of democratic centralism. This is not allowed,” Yechury said.

To a poser on whether the controversy was regarding the flaunting of costly gadgets by a party member, Yechury said public display of wealth was a matter of “personal convictions and personal consciousness of a comrade”.

To buttress his point, Yechury referred to late party stalwarts like P. Sundaraiah and E.M.S. Namboodiripad, both of whom came from families of big landlords. “They both led very spartan lives. Sundaraiah was called a Communist rishi. Namboodiripad donated all his property to the party’s cause.”

“As comrades mature inside the party this will be reflected,” he said, adding personal display of wealth was not the quality of a good human being.

However, with regard to Banerjee carrying the expensive gadgets, Yechury said every member of parliament was given a grant of Rs 1.5 lakh to purchase electronic devices aimed at reducing paper.

–IANS

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