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TMC infighting smoke in party office arson

Calcutta, June 11: A Trinamul office in New Town was burnt down early today in an alleged fallout of a turf war between two factions led by a party MP and an MLA.

Trinamul leaders admitted that factional feud had “always been one of the major problems” for the party but added that such fights had never before culminated in an arson attack.

“I never imagined that a party office would be burnt down while we are in power. But given the way things are happening, the area (New Town) is likely to witness a more infighting,” a senior Trinamul leader said.

Pockets of New Town have been on the boil since the Lok Sabha poll results were announced, with frequent clashes allegedly between two groups owing allegiance to Barasat MP Kakali Ghosh Dastidar and Rajarhat-New Town MLA Sabyasachi Dutta.

Sources said Kakali’s supporters used to frequent the party office, near the Tarulia football ground, 15km from Calcutta, and many of them were there till 1.30am today. The office was set on fire two hours later.

The police said some “unknown persons” had set the office ablaze.

On Saturday, two Trinamul groups had came to blows at a local club near DLF Building, leaving seven injured. Most of them apparently belonged to Dutta’s camp.

A senior Trinamul leader said last night’s arson could be an attempt to “settle scores” against the lobby that owed allegiance to Kakali.

“The frequency of the attacks indicates how desperate the two lobbies are to control the syndicates that supply construction materials to the innumerable real estate projects in New Town,” said a Trinamul leader in North 24-Parganas.

Mukul Roy, Trinamul’s all-India general secretary, denied the party’s involvement in the construction materials-supply business.

Sources in the party said a meeting had been called in the Assembly tomorrow where MP Kakali, MLA Dutta, Roy and North 24-Parganas Trinamul president Jyotipriya Mullick would be present. Labour minister Purnendu Bose, Bidhannagar municipality chairperson Krishna Chakraborty and Bidhannagar MLA Sujit Bose have also been told to attend the meeting.

In several party forums, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has warned Trinamul leaders against getting involved in syndicates. However, repeated allegations have been made that the ruling party was controlling the materials-supply business in New Town and other parts of the state.

According to the Trinamul sources, clashes have been taking place in the Laskarhati, Ghuni and Mahishbathan areas of Rajarhat, where big projects such as a TCS office, DLF IT City-II and a housing complex by the Shapoorji Pallonji Group are coming up.

Kakali could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. Dutta today called up urban development minister Firhad Hakim and sought his intervention. “I told Bobbyda (Hakim) about whatever is happening here,” he said.

A Trinamul source said Dutta, who is apparently close to Roy, used to call the shots in these New Town areas before the Lok Sabha elections. The MLA, who was given charge of running Trinamul’s campaign in Tripura, did not canvass for Kakali. The sources said this increased the tension between Kakali and Dutta.

A senior Trinamul leader said that in areas such as Laskarhati and Ghuni, party workers loyal to Dutta did not campaign for Kakali. “Her loyalists had campaigned for her there. Dutta’s lobby is now worried that it is losing its grip on the area and is trying to reclaim what it considers to be its turf,” the leader said.

The alleged rivalry between the Kakali and Dutta camps intensified after last year’s panchayat polls, the sources said. They added that around 150 to 200 syndicates operated in New Town.