Having merged his Pashimbanga Socialist Party into the SP a month ago, 67-year-old Nanda has demonstrated that he has arrived by getting the SP to hold its National Executive in Kolkata, at a five-star hotel. The decision is unusual given that the SP has no presence in West Bengal. Preparations are on in full swing for the three-day meeting starting on May 21 that will be attended by 72 delegates, all lodged at the hotel.
Nanda says Mulayam welcomed him into the SP saying he was the party’s replacement for Amar Singh. If he pulls off the National Executive now, life would have come full circle for the Fisheries man. The Paschimbanga Socialist Party had merged with the SP once earlier in 1995, with Nanda then too becoming the general secretary. After he fell out with Mulayam four years later and split, Amar Singh — incidentally with a long history in West Bengal politics as well — he says, had replaced him.
As far as controversies go too, Nanda has a fair share of own. While a minister in the Left Front government for 28 years now, he lost no time after the last Lok Sabha polls and the front’s disastrous performance to declare that it had lost the mandate and should call early elections.
On another occasion, he took on Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee over the filling up of a waterbody, while three years ago, he had stood by an officer of his department when she faced allegations of undertaking a foreign trip without requisite permission from the government.
To those objecting to the hosting of a national executive at a five-star hotel at a time when politicians are falling over each other in austerity drives, Nanda says: “Ours is a poor party but we have quite a few well-wishers who are sponsoring the meet. Why should somebody raise an eyebrow on this issue?”
‘Organising the meet in such a way has given him a chance to project himself before party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav that he is no less resourceful than Amar Singh. And it will help both him and Mulayam. While Nanda gets the support and financial backing of the SP, Mulayam is now going to have one minister and three MLAs in a state other than Uttar Pradesh,” says a party leader.
Nanda has thrown himself into his role with gusto, with his chamber at Writers’ Buildings virtually converted into an SP office. There are dozens of party workers surrounding him any given time of the day, and hardly any government file is being cleared. “He is very busy with his party work and has hardly any time for his ministerial job,” said one department official.
The second son of Jyotirmoy Nanda, an eminent scholar and social worker of Mugberia in East Midnapore district, Nanda got involved in student politics as a member of the Students’ Federation, the students’ wing of the undivided Communist Party. In 1981, after the Paschimbanga Socialist Party was set up, he became a member of the party. When it joined the Left Front, he became a minister. He has been holding the Department of Fisheries since then.
His brother Bramhamoy Nanda is an MLA of the party. Nanda’s son Durga Prasad is a doctor while his daughter Sudeshna is still studying.
On May 21, at a conference to be presided over by Mulayam at the Netaji Indoor Stadium, the formal merger of the Paschimbanga Socialist Party and the SP would be announced. The CPM says it has no problem. “Mulayam Singh is close to us and if his party becomes a part of the Left Front once again, it will be good for the Left as a whole,” says Rabin Dev, CPM state secretariat member.
Bramhamoy Nanda says his brother is “a stickler for discipline” and his “inspiration”. “He always helps people without caring for the political background the man is from.”
Another quality that Bramhamoy attributes to his brother, though, is likely to have stood him in better stead. “Napoleon used to say that there was no word called ‘impossible’ in his dictionary,” says Bramhamoy. “My brother also believes the same thing.”