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Professor on a turning pitch
A for Arabul, B for Bose

Q: What do you have to say about controversial Trinamul leader Arabul Islam, who shared the dais with you today?

A: I am requesting everyone to maintain respect and decorum.

Q: How do you propose to tackle the allegation that people like Arabul Islam are sullying the image of Trinamul by interfering in academic institutes?

A: I am requesting everyone to maintain respect and decorum. Especially those with some connection with academic institutes should be respectful towards teachers.

Sugata Bose had “respect and decorum” on his lips when he met reporters after a workers’ conference at Bhangar, one of the seven Assembly segments in the Jadavpur Lok Sabha constituency from where the Gardiner professor of oceanic history at Harvard is contesting as a Trinamul candidate.

“I want to change the face of Bhangar, which often makes headlines in newspapers for incidents like clashes and murders,” Bose said during his address, before stressing the need for development and peace in the area.

But questions popped up about the trickle-down effect of his message when Arabul, who was sitting next to Bose during the hour-long programme, was heard barking expletives immediately after the programme ended and the candidate set out on a roadshow towards Ghatakpukur.

“This is Arabul and this is the politics of South 24-Parganas,” said a local Trinamul leader as Arabul, along with a few of his supporters, began shouting and gesticulating.

All local Trinamul leaders were aware why A for Arabul suddenly spelt A for Angry — Kaisar Ahmed, a member of the zilla parishad and a known Arabul baiter, had convinced Bose to hold a roadshow in his area. “Arabul was unhappy as Sugatada was leading the roadshow towards Kaisar’s area. Housing minister Aroop Biswas had to intervene to calm down Arabul, who was creating such a scene,” said a senior Trinamul leader, who was present at the venue.

Besides Biswas, power minister Manish Gupta, Trinamul state president and MP Subrata Bakshi, and other MLAs from South 24-Parganas were present at Kathalberia in Bhangar, but it was evident that Arabul, the panchayat samiti sabhapati of Bhangar II, was the main organiser of Wednesday’s programme. More than 90 per cent of the 5,000-plus turnout were Arabul supporters, said Trinamul sources.

Not just for his ability to organise party programmes, Arabul has a position of pre-eminence in the Trinamul ranks because of his control over the Bhangar area, which plays a key role in the Jadavpur constituency.

“Kabir Suman, our candidate in 2009, got a lead of over 11,000 votes from Bhangar and that was mainly because of Arabul…. He becomes a deciding factor in Jadavpur,” said a Trinamul leader.

The Arabul factor may help Bose in Bhangar, but the former Bhangar MLA, who was arrested last year for leading an attack on a CPM rally, may well be an albatross around the academician’s neck in urban segments like Jadavpur and Tollygunge.

Arabul, whose affidavit for the 2011 Assembly elections says he is “10th Pass”, has been known to meddle in the affairs of academic institutions in his fief while Bose has always advocated depoliticisation of higher education.

A president of the governing body of Bhangar Mahavidyalaya, Arabul’s outburst during a college governing body meeting in April 2012 had sent a jug crashing into a lady teacher’s chin.

When Bose was asked about this, he stayed mum. He also said he hadn’t seen anything untoward when asked about Arabul’s outburst. So what if an outraged Arabul was just behind his left shoulder? It’s all about “respect and decorum”, after all.