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Trinamul turf war out of bush
- Durgapur leaders exchange blows on road over clearing of thickets

Durgapur, Sept. 13: Two Trinamul leaders in their fifties came to blows on a Durgapur street yesterday over clearing of roadside bushes in the wake of the alleged rape of a woman on Sunday night.

Mayor-in-council member Pramod Sarkar, who hired labourers to clear the bushes, and local Trinamul leader Nikhil Mukherjee traded charges of meddling in each other’s territory. Sarkar allegedly tried to strangle Nikhil Mukherjee, who pushed him down and rained punches, the scenes playing out in front of 50-odd contract workers, civic body employees, supporters of the two leaders and several passers-by.

Around 2pm yesterday, Sarkar reached a field near a cancer hospital in Bidhannagar, 8km from the spot where the woman was allegedly raped, and started supervising the work of clearing the bushes.

Trinamul workers said Sarkar suspected that the foliage served as a cover for illegal activities.

Minutes after the clean-up began, Nikhil Mukherjee, a Trinamul leader from the Durgapur Municipal Corporation’s ward no. 27 that Sarkar represents, arrived with some supporters and demanded to know why he had not been informed about the drive.

Sarkar, who switched to Trinamul from the Congress after the Assembly elections last year and is known to be close to Trinamul state president Subrata Bakshi, told Nikhil Mukherjee, a close aide of Durgapur mayor Apurba Mukherjee, that he was the elected representative of the area. Sarkar said he did not need anybody’s permission before starting any development work.

“But Nikhil Mukherjee remained adamant and tried to resist. I have complained against him to our party higher-ups in Calcutta,” Sarkar said.

A Durgapur resident said: “Sarkar pounced on Nikhil Mukherjee and tried to strangle him. Nikhil Mukherjee freed himself and shoved Sarkar to the ground. Then he sat on Sarkar’s chest and hit him repeatedly. It was funny to see two adults and party colleagues fighting like this.”

Sarkar’s aide Debaprasad Dutta allegedly hit Nikhil Mukherjee on his head and shoulder with a brick. Nikhil Mukherjee lost consciousness and had to be admitted to the Durgapur Steel Plant hospital.

Doctors said he had suffered a head injury and a CT scan had been done.

Last night, Nikhil Mukherjee lodged an FIR against Sarkar, Dutta and two others. Dutta was arrested from his home this morning. The Durgapur court granted him bail.

Sarkar’s lawyer Debabrata Sai said his client would surrender in court tomorrow.

Nikhil Mukherjee alleged that Sarkar, who owns a bar-cum-restaurant in the Sagarbhanga area of Durgapur, “hobnobbed” with a local promoter.

“Sarkar joined our party with the help of the promoter, whose uncle is a Trinamul MLA in Calcutta. He does not belong to our locality but got the ticket to contest the civic polls in June on the promoter’s recommendation. Several illegal activities take place at Sarkar’s bar-cum-restaurant. He resorts to favouritism while awarding contracts to agencies for development work,” Nikhil Mukherjee said.