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Syndicate spoils at root of faction feud

Turf war at New Town

SYNDICATE WAR: Streaks of yellow where bombs exploded (above) during a clash between two alleged Trinamul factions on Beleghata Main Road on the evening of July 6. Police investigate the incident in the neighbourhood

The bitter rivalry between factions within the Trinamul Congress over syndicate spoils has again come to the fore with the attack on a gram panchayat member at New Town on Thursday night and the arrest of two suspects on Friday morning.

Prahlad Mondal, a member of Jyangra Hatiara 2 gram panchayat at New Town and a close aide of New Town MLA Sabyasachi Dutta, was shot at while returning from a party meeting.

Police have arrested Prasanta Mondal and Raju Nayek, both Trinamul supporters.

Trinamul leaders in the township said the violence was the fallout of a turf war between supporters of Dutta and Barasat MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, who are not known to see eye to eye.

“Prahlad is Sabyasachi’s man. Naturally, he will work for Sabyasachi in the area he is elected from. This is the reason the rival faction wants to get rid of him,” said a Trinamul leader.

New Town, which falls under the Barasat Lok Sabha constituency, has in the past few months witnessed several clashes between supporters of Dutta and Ghosh Dastidar.

Control over construction supply syndicates — a consortium of building material supplier — has been at the root of the feud, Trinamul leaders said.

A circular issued by the party earlier this week barred members from getting involved in syndicates directly or indirectly — the first time such an order has been given in writing.

Though syndicates are not illegal, the arm-twisting tactics adopted by the members to force developers into buying poor quality material from them at a premium definitely are.

Besides the cash they generate, syndicates are also a means to keep a firm grip over local youths, who earn their livelihood by running the supply chain and devote rest of their time to party activities.

“At New Town, Sabyada’s supporters have a clear edge over Kakolidi’s. Her associates desperately want to gain entry into New Town. The frequent skirmishes and clashes are the result of that desperation,” said a Trinamul leader, who enjoys equal proximity with both groups.

“If there is any trouble at New Town, it is most likely to be over the syndicate business,” said a senior Trinamul leader at New Town. “The leader who controls the syndicates also controls the area,” said a Trinmul veteran.

Police sources said there have been at least three clashes among supplier groups since May.

On June 7, two groups of construction material suppliers owing allegiance to Dutta and Ghosh Dastidar clashed barely 300 metres from DLF building, the IT hub that is a landmark at New Town.

Both Dutta and Ghosh Dastidar denied any role of the syndicates.

“The firing has nothing to do with syndicates. A party member was attacked and I have instructed the police to take strict action. Some people are giving refuge to criminals who are carrying out such crimes,” Dutta said.

Ghosh Dastidar refused comment saying it was “not a political issue”.