|Somen Mitra and wife Shikha with state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya at the seminar on Sunday. Telegraph picture
Calcutta, July 1: Trinamul MP Somen Mitra and his wife Shikha, a party MLA, today expressed their disgruntlement with Mamata Banerjee through action and words but without mentioning the chief minister’s name.
Mitra reached the Pradesh Congress headquarters, Bidhan Bhavan, this morning to pay homage to former chief minister B.C. Roy on his birth anniversary. B.C. Roy’s legacy transcends the political divide but Mitra’s bonhomie with the party that he had quit in 2008, when the tide started swinging in favour of Mamata’s change chant, did draw intense attention.
The Diamond Harbour MP was back at the Congress office again in the evening — accompanied by his wife Shikha — to attend a seminar, where she took swipes at Mamata.
“When B.C. Roy became chief minister of Bengal, the state was in a mess. He never felt helpless about how to work. Once you are in the chair, you have to work. Taka nei, take nei bolle cholena (Saying there is no money doesn’t help). People will not listen to it. They want performance,” Shikha said at the seminar.
Although Shikha did not name Mamata, the reference left little doubt on the identity of the target. Shikha’s comments came at a time Mamata has been demanding a three-year moratorium on payment of interest and repayment of a part of the past debt. The chief minister has also been complaining that the Centre had done little to help Bengal.
Partha Chatterjee, Trinamul secretary-general and minister, sent out a firm message to Mitra and his wife.
“Somebody thinks that he can continue with one foot in the party and another in the CPM. Indiscipline will not be tolerated in the party. The doors are open. A report on the matter has already been submitted,” Chatterjee said.
Reacting to Shikha’s comments, he said: “She was a quota candidate and did not get the ticket on her own merit. Trinamul can win that seat any day.”
The pot shot on performance was not the only deviation from the Trinamul line. Shikha praised the person whom Mamata holds responsible for prolonging Bengal’s financial agony.
“Pranab Mukherjee is the most eligible candidate for the President’s post,” said Shikha, an MLA of the sole UPA constituent that has till now declined to support the former finance minister’s bid to enter the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
A Trinamul insider said: “The couple’s open support for Mukherjee is an indication that some others in Trinamul are also willing to vote for the former finance minister. That’s one of the reasons that may prompt Mamatadi to abstain from voting.”
Shikha later clarified that she would not breach party discipline by voting for Mukherjee. “I will do whatever the party says,” she said.
By then, the first-time MLA from Sealdah — considered as Mitra’s fief — had added to Trinamul discomfiture by echoing dissident Trinamul MP Kabir Suman.
Shikha told the seminar: “I am an MLA but I am not being allowed to work. People had elected me to work for them. If that is not possible, what is the point in holding on to the chair? There is so much of infighting that it is not possible to work. I cannot to stoop to be a sycophant,” Shikha said.
Although the party has ignored Suman — described as a “guest” by Mamata — Trinamul sources said Shikha’s comments would not be taken lightly as Somen is not a political “lightweight” like the singer-turned-MP from Jadavpur.