The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Assault heat on ex-councillor

May 16: A day after Pranab Mukherjee was roughed up at the state Congress headquarters, former Calcutta Municipal Corporation councillor Arun Das was suspended for having triggered the assault.

'The high command has taken strong exception to yesterday's incident in which Pranabbabu was assaulted by partymen,' said Ambika Soni, the AICC general secretary in charge of Bengal affairs. 'Pranabbabu has been entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out a probe into the incident. The guilty will be punished.'

The assault on the defence minister, who is also the state party president, figured in the Congress working committee meeting in the capital.

The party's Bengal leaders decided to punish Das after Sonia Gandhi expressed unhappiness over the incident and asked Pranab Mukherjee to submit a report.

Disciplinary action is also expected against three others from Taltala ' central Calcutta party president Subimal Mitra, the secretary of ward 55, Swapan Das, and youth Congress functionary Aloke Das.

Party workers from the Taltala-Entally area, angry over seat sharing with mayor Subrata Mukherjee, attacked Pranab Mukherjee.

The state party chief took the onus of investigation upon himself apparently because he did not want the Priya Ranjan Das Munshi faction to gain the whip hand and turn the situation against Somen Mitra, his alleged ally in the pact with the mayor. Mitra is seen as Das's mentor. Sources said for the same reason, Pranab Mukherjee has also refrained from lodging a police complaint.

Unfazed by the suspension, Das said he did no wrong. 'If Congress workers like us are hurt by denial of tickets, they have the right to air grievances before the party chief. Pranabda lost his temper when my supporters tried to meet him.'

Das allegedly triggered the assault after the party chief turned down his request for a nomination for his wife Sabita from ward 55. The seat went to Subrata Mukherjee's Paschimbanga Unnayan Congress Mancha as part of the pact.

'I am going to get Sabita elected from this ward as an Independent. I am going to teach the leaders a lesson,' Das said.

The trouble broke out when supporters waving party flags mobbed the minister demanding that ward 55 be allotted to Das's wife. Pranab Mukherjee shot back saying it had already gone to the Mancha. A free-for-all followed in which he allegedly grabbed some of the demonstrators by their collars and slapped them.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said at Writers' Buildings 'such things were natural in the Congress'.

Home secretary A.K. Deb said the government was looking into the violence, but no complaint had been lodged.

Party sources said Mitra was under the scanner as Das had time and again claimed to be one of his close aides. 'The high command is probing if he prodded Das to ask for ward 55,' a source said.

An agitated Mitra said he was ready to face a probe. 'I am ready for an AICC inquiry,' he said, adding: 'I have condemned yesterday's incident.'

Das said: 'Somenda had promised that 55 would be allotted to my wife. But all of a sudden, he tied up with Subrata and Pranabda to give it to someone who was a Trinamul worker till the other day.'

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