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Gun lifts veil on Trinamul rift

- Party disowns suspect, faction adds fuel

Nov. 11: Ashis Dey stood unchallenged outside a Birbhum circuit house on Wednesday when industries minister Partha Chatterjee held a meeting inside on the land flare-up in the district a day before.

Less than a week later on Sunday, the Trinamul Congress was scrambling to distance itself from Dey, who is said to have introduced himself to several people as a district secretary of the party.

Between last Wednesday and the weekend, CCTV footage surfaced that showed a man brandishing a gun inside a private hospital in Suri, the district headquarters, and threatening some employees apparently to ensure that he had a say in recruitment. One of the employees identified the armed intruder as Dey.

Dey was also named in an FIR lodged by Swastik Hospital owner Joyprakash Khaitan. Others named in the report include Raja Chowdhury, an alleged accomplice of Dey.

As the footage was beamed on ABP Ananda, several Trinamul leaders said Dey had been expelled from the party one-and-a-half years ago. But one section of the party accused another of still patronising Dey.

The alleged gun-waving threat occurred around 10pm on Friday.

One of the hospital employees who was allegedly threatened, Gautam Sen, identified the man as Dey. “Ashis had come to the hospital on Friday night. He was drunk. He threatened us at gunpoint, saying: ‘Toder malik-ke bolbi amar kotha shunte. Na hole sab katake mere felbo (tell your boss to obey me. Or else, I will kill all of you).’”

Khaitan alleged Dey had been trying to force him to recruit doctors and employees of his choice and sack those he did not like. “For the past few days, he had been warning me and my staff against recruiting a gynaecologist,” the owner of the hospital that was opened in August said.

Khaitan said he was not in the hospital on Friday night. According to the employees, Dey and Chowdhury had entered the hospital while a few others were waiting outside the main glass door.

Trinamul sources said Dey was expelled on the charge of beating up the gynaecologist whose appointment he was allegedly trying to stall. Dey had been arrested in the case and was out on bail. He had been arrested again last December for allegedly hurling bombs at the house of a Congress leader, police sources said. He had obtained bail in that case too.

Debashis Debangshi, the gynaecologist and general secretary of the Trinamul-backed Progressive Doctors’ Association in Birbhum, said: “He (Dey) had beaten me up at Suri Sadar Hospital.”

When The Telegraph called Dey up on his cellphone this evening, a male voice said: “Dada nei (dada is not here).”

Dey has been charged under provisions of the non-bailable arms act and with threatening to murder and assault.

“We received a complaint this evening. We are looking for the accused,” said Murlidhar, the Birbhum police chief.

On Wednesday, when industries minister Chatterjee was holding a meeting with district officials, DVC-Emta representatives and some Trinamul leaders, including district unit chief Anubrata Mondal, at the Suri circuit house, Dey was seen standing outside the building with some party activists. He allegedly brawled with some SUCI supporters walking by in a procession.

Contacted, minister Chatterjee said: “I won’t reply to any question on Ashis Dey.”

Trinamul leaders sought to distance themselves from Dey. “Dey was expelled from the party about one-and-a-half years ago. The party has nothing to do with him,” Trinamul state president Subrata Bakshi said. “The police have been asked to take firm action against him.”

Birbhum Trinamul MP Satabdi Roy and Suri MLA Swapan Ghosh, also belonging to the party, alleged Dey was “patronised” by district unit chief Mondal and minister Chandranath Sinha.

Ghosh said Dey had been “seen on several occasions travelling in a car with Sinha and attending events with him”. “Without the indulgence of Sinha and Mondal, Dey could never have established his writ in the area despite being thrown out of the party,” Ghosh said.

Satabdi, who has strained relations with Mondal, said: “It is unfortunate that he is being patronised by the district party president and the lone minister from Birbhum.”

Denying the allegations, Mondal said: “Dey has been expelled from the party.”