"Will Liberate West Bengal Again": Former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee
Six days after he quit West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress and joined the BJP, Sovan Chatterjee called for a second liberation of the state. The first liberation was the ouster of the Left by the Trinamool in 2011. "The party which was then seen as a savior, has now changed. We will liberate Bengal again," he said, adding the writing is on the wall.
But what about poll strategist Prashant Kishor and his bid to turn the Trinamool around? Mr Chatterjee was scathing. "You can't replace committed party workers with a thikadaror contractual labour. That too a thikadar who had also worked with your political rival."
Mr Chatterjee was given a formal welcome by the Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh at the state office in Kolkata on Tuesday. His friend Baisakhi Banerjee, who joined the BJP on the same day, got the same treatment--but after the BJP could soothe her ruffled feathers. She refused to attend the event because the BJP media invite only had Mr Chatterjee's name on it and not hers. They had to issue a fresh invite with both names on it.
Ms Banerjee was upset at what she felt was a slight on her as an individual but finally let it pass after being mollified by Mr Ghosh. "Sovan Da and Baisakhi Di are like dal-chawal," he said.
Mr Chatterjee later took on the Trinamool over panchayat poll violence. "If people had been able to vote freely then things would already have been different," he said.
He had been so badly sidelined in the Trinamool for the last eight months, he said, it was painful.
"After swimming in a directionless river, I have now been pulled up to the shore," he said.
Welcoming Mr Chatterjee into the fold, Mr Ghosh said the former Trinamool leader had earned his place in politics and would be treated in the BJP with respect.
"When someone who built a party is forced to leave it - like Sovan Da and earlier Mukul Roy - it is very unfortunate," Mr Ghosh said.
"So when I saw him doing nothing, I said to him, you have done politics for 40 years. You can't live without politics. Come and join us," he added.
"I have been in politics for 40 years. I only want to be a good worker," Mr Chatterjee responded.
Once a close aide of Mamata Banerjee who would address him by his pet name 'Kanan' and whose number he saved as 'Ma' or mother in his phone, they fell out over his alleged extramarital affair with Baisakhi Banerjee, a college teacher in Kolkata. He has filed for divorce from his wife Ratna Chatterjee with whom he has two children.
The former Kolkata mayor is under the CBI and Enforcement Directorate probe for the Narada sting operation, which showed a video of him allegedly taking cash from a journalist posing as a businessman.
"Many people are probed. But there is a difference between probe and proof," Mr Chatterjee said.
There is speculation that Mr Chatterjee joined the BJP to escape the CBI, ED dragnet. Mukul Roy, another Trinamool leader who joined the BJP in 2017, was being probed for links with Narada and the chit funds scam.