|A policeman enters the Trinamul head office on Monday night to give Mamata protection. Picture by Sanjay Chattopadhyaya
Calcutta, Oct. 22: Mamata Banerjee this evening quit the rundown, tiled-roof Kalighat home that has been part of her lore after a quarrel with two of her brothers whom she accused of using her name to strike deals.
The Trinamul Congress chief and her mother Gayatri Devi have shifted “temporarily” to the Topsia Road party headquarters, where she has done most of her paintings and poems, revealing her non-political side and perhaps her deepest personal emotions.
“I was left with no choice but to leave my house to ensure a better environment for my ailing mother,” said the leader known more for walkouts from houses of legislature. “This is a personal matter and has nothing to do with politics.”
“I have temporarily shifted with my mother from my 30B Harish Chatterjee Street residence to Trinamul Bhavan on 36G Topsia Road,” said a written note she sent to Kalighat police station before leaving the house at 6pm.
“As I have no other place to stay in, Trinamul Bhavan will be my temporary home. (This is)… a last resort since I am no longer interested in staying with my family. In social and political life, I believe in the company of people. They are my family….”
Party sources said two of the MP’s six brothers had been pressuring her to help them gain a foothold in the real estate business. A quarrel broke out today after one of the brothers insisted she help him with a south Calcutta realty deal.
The sources said Mamata, unhappy also at the way one of the brothers used her name to squeeze money out of people, said she would not compromise her integrity.
The one-storey house in the unfashionable nook of Kalighat had been as much an advertisement of that personal integrity as the cotton sari and leather slippers.
Many would have difficulty in dissociating Mamata from the house that she wouldn’t leave even when she became Union minister.
It helped her gain the girl-next-door image when she started making a mark in politics in the ’80s. It later became a city landmark where incumbent Prime Ministers like Atal Bihari Vajpayee paid homage, threading their convoy through dingy lanes lined by auto garages and sweet shops on the bank of grimy Tolly’s Nullah.
MP and Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy stressed that the break was temporary. “Mamatadi and her mother will stay at Trinamul Bhavan for now,” he said.
Mamata, 56, and her 82-year-old mother have been put up in an air-conditioned room on the building’s second floor. Her security personnel have been shifted from Kalighat to the Topsia headquarters, where close associates such as Roy, MLAs Jyotipriya Mullick and Javed Khan, and Trinamul youth wing leader Aloke Das chose to stay overnight to express solidarity.
Gayatri Devi retired for the night after a “frugal” dinner, and Khan was assigned to arrange food for Mamata from outside. Mamata will address a news conference at the office tomorrow afternoon.
The Trinamul chief isn’t the only Indian politician said to have been tormented by alleged omissions and commissions of family members. Her once arch-adversary, former chief minister Jyoti Basu, had run into rough weather over allegations linked to son Chandan.
Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra issued a public notice five years ago disowning his father and elder brother whom he accused of using his relation with the Nehru-Gandhis to strike deals.
Six years ago, one of Mamata’s brothers had organised a “Bappi Lahiri Nite” outside the Kalighat house while she was away in Delhi. But Mamata got wind of it and had the then mayor, Subrata Mukherjee, abort the function at the eleventh hour.
Today, she said she had left the house in charge of brother Amit and his wife Lata.