regular-article-logo Thursday, 08 June 2023

CPM leader Shatarup Ghosh clears air on car after TMC query

The uncommon media conference was occasioned by a Trinamul Congress spokesperson who asked over Twitter how Shatarup, a whole-timer of a communist party, could afford such a vehicle

Devadeep Purohit, Arkamoy Datta Majumdar Calcutta Published 29.03.23, 05:11 AM
Shatarup Ghosh addresses the news conference at the CPM headquarters in Alimuddin Street in Calcutta

Shatarup Ghosh addresses the news conference at the CPM headquarters in Alimuddin Street in Calcutta Sourced by the Telegraph

Would you like your leader to be less ostentatious and more pretentious or the other way around?

If it is less pretentious, Tuesday marked a red-letter day, so to speak, in Indian politics: a public figure, that too a communist, held a news conference at the CPM headquarters to explain and defend how he got his new car.


First, the dialectical materialism surrounding the car: it’s an SUV, a Grand Vitara from the Maruti Suzuki stable, costing around Rs 22 lakh.

The odds are stacked against the owner of the vehicle: Shatarup Ghosh, a young CPM state committee member and a popular presence on social media.

In the make-believe world of Indian public life, the price is considered an astronomical amount although no scam worth its name in the country is now considered worth a second look unless it runs into hundreds of crores of rupees.

Besides, Shatarup was defending himself in a state where the biggest political asset of its tallest leader Mamata Banerjee is her “simplicity”, marked by her choice of footwear.

The nation’s leader also scores high on “sacrifice” and a life fashioned by an ascetic’s playbook although Narendra Modi’s groomed look has grown in direct proportion with the expansion of his political clout. Never mind that the “yogi” image is often paired with a Mont Blanc pen, Movado watches and rimless Bvlgari glasses.

Such is the power of the brand that the spiritual Sangh ecosystem spent days discussing threadbare the T-shirt Rahul Gandhi wore on the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

It is against such a daunting backdrop that Shatarup convened the media conference on Alimuddin Street, a venue that usually hosts events to further the cause of revolution, not revolution per minute in a car’s engine.

To be fair to the young leader, he did not make any bones about the choice of his vehicle. Not all Indian leaders are like that — political folklore has it that a politician once hastily rolled down the window of his car on a sweltering day, lest anyone think he was enjoying the comfort of airconditioning.

The uncommon media conference was occasioned by a Trinamul Congress spokesperson who asked over Twitter how Shatarup, a whole-timer of a communist party, could afford such a vehicle. “A large portion of this money (the price of the car) was paid by my father,” Shatarup, who was the CPM candidate from Kasba in 2021, said at the news conference.

His father Shibnath Ghosh’s passbook, with details of an account with a public sector bank, was shown at the media conference.

“You can see that Rs 18.01 lakh was debited from my father’s account on December 29, 2022,” said the CPM leader, who has lakhs of followers on social media. Shatarup paid Rs 2 lakh from his own bank account and anotherRs 1.99 lakh was paid in cash.

Kunal Ghosh, who is spearheading a campaign on behalf of the ruling party to unearth corruption charges against CPM leaders at a time Trinamul is battling a school recruitment scandal, made the first assault with two tweets against Shatarup.

Unlike many of his party colleagues, who maintain a spartan lifestyle (at least in public), the young comrade doesn’t conform to some of the established norms of the party that calls itself an organisation of the proletariat.

“Satarup Ghosh of CPM. Rs 2 lacs assets in 2021 election affidavit. Now he bought the new car paying one time almost 22 lacs. How can a wholetimer of CPM afford this kind of expenses?” Kunal tweeted.

A source said: “There is little doubt that the young CPM leader’s prompt response, along with documents, has helped him swat away the corruption innuendo that Kunal tried to make. The fact that he used the party headquarters for his defence proved that the leadership bought his version and he has their backing on the issue,” said a source.

As a state committee member, Shatarup has to submit details of his assets, along with those of his spouse, during the renewal of party membership, the process for which starts in April. “Unless one can prove that the car was bought from the proceeds of corruption, he is well within his rights to accept a gift from his father.... And it is clear that he will declare it during membership renewal and the party won’t have any problems with it,” said the source.

The issue did shine a light on the double standard that steers the life of some public figures.

Several Left leaders, especially those belonging to the older generation, continue to take a high moral ground by calling themselves “proletariat” and drawing a distinction between themselves and those from the “bourgeois parties”.

Kunal too picked on that posture. After Shatarup drilled holes into the suggestion of corruption, the Trinamul spokesperson fired another set of questions.

“How can a CPM whole-timer afford such a luxurious car? If his father paid for it, why is the car registered in his name? The bigger question is, why will the member of the party that claims to work for the proletariat wish to own such a vehicle? Does Shatarup’s party know that he owns this car?” Kunal asked in a subsequent news conference.

The issue may appear trivial for many but not the CPM. The matter has the potential to open a pandora’s box in the CPM in view of the party’s past and the doggedness shown by a section within to prove their moral superiority.

“The incident has a lesson for the CPM hardliners.... They must realise and also admit that it’s a party of the middle class, too, and its leaders have aspirations like those of the rest of the middle class. Several leaders of yesteryear too had their aspirations but they tried to hide their desires from the public. Now, the time has come to drop the covers and admit that the CPM is no different from the other political parties. This honesty may help the party,” a CPM insider said.

Follow us on: