Blue-eyed girl with history of street-fight

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By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 12.12.14

The chief minister's blue-eyed girl with extraordinary lungpower, this is how leaders in Bengal know the deputy Speaker of the Assembly.

Sonali Guha (Bose), whose alleged intervention in a building society dispute has hurled her into the centre of a storm, claims to have been by Mamata Banerjee's side since she became an MP for the first time in 1984.

Senior leaders, however, only remember her from the early 1990s, by when Guha, who is 44 years old according to her Assembly polls affidavit, had completed her graduation in science from Charuchandra College.

The College Street resident followed her Didi when she broke away from the Congress to form the Trinamul Congress in 1998. Her loyalty was rewarded when she became the first president of the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad.

Sporting a large bindi, a red tilak and thick glasses, Sonali was a fixture by Mamata's side all through the years she battled the CPM.

Trinamul insiders said Sonali and Bidhannagar Municipality chairperson Krishna Chakraborty were among Mamata's closest aides during her fight with the CPM.

"She led on Mamata's order the agitation against the eviction of squatters from the banks of Tolly's Nullah and Gobindapur railway colony between 2001 and 2003. Every day, she would be at the spots with party supporters. Faced with such opposition, the Left Front government had to initially backtrack in both cases."

In the 2001 Assembly elections, Mamata had fielded Sonali from Satgachhia in South-24-Parganas. From 2001 to 2011, Sonali won from the seat thrice.

In the Assembly, before becoming deputy Speaker, what marked Sonali out were her vocal cords. "She could outshout multiple Left Front legislators. She would constantly shout and pass comments at our legislators on the treasury bench," a CPM MLA said.

Old-timers recalled how she had joined forces with Trinamul veterans Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, Sougata Roy and others to target the CPM's Rabin Deb for his alleged links with Tiljala strongman Mohammad Tasleem, alias Chunnu Mian. "She was barely a few months old as an MLA and leading the Opposition charge against the treasury bench," the CPM legislator said.

While some of the members of Trinamul's shouting brigade went on to become ministers in the Mamata government, Sonali was given the responsibility of monitoring the legislators.

When the Trinamul legislators went on the rampage in the Assembly after Mamata was stopped from entering Singur on November 30, 2006, Sonali was heard shouting abusive slogans against then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and the Left MLAs. She had also led a Trinamul group that locked cops at Nodakhali police station in South 24-Parganas in November 2008.

The only instance of a possible rift between Mamata and Sonali that Trinamul insiders could remember was during Mamata's hunger strike over Singur in the Metro Channel in December 2006. Sonali, who was among those who joined the fast, went missing from the dais and was spotted in Puri some days later. "Mamatadi was very angry with her," said a Trinamul source.

Mamata was left embarrassed when Sonali's husband, Trinamul councillor Partha Bose, was accused of leading a mob at Presidency University in April 2013. Insiders said Mamata had called Bose and asked him to surrender.

CPM state secretary Biman Bose said he was not surprised. "If the chief minister (Bhowanipore, 2011) can enter a police station to free her followers, the deputy Speaker would surely behave in this manner," asked Bose.