ASANSOL: BJP MP Babul Supriyo says his friendship with Moon Moon Sen goes back a long time but he is disappointed that his Trinamool Congress rival is resorting to personal attacks and also invoking her dead mother for votes.
The two are locked in a straight contest in this Lok Sabha constituency, which goes to polls on April 29.
"Initially, I thought being foreign educated and Suchitra Sen's daughter, she would shy away from personal attacks. From whatever she has said in the last 10 days or so, I knew that this would happen once she starts spending time with TMC leaders. But I never expected her to do so soon," Supriyo told PTI in an interview.
In his office-cum-home in Mohishila, dishevelled, pouring over papers Supriyo looks tired. He says he could hardly sleep a wink on several previous nights as there was some problem that he had to deal with - be it workers being beaten up or raids being conducted by the police.
"I do not want to engage in gutter politics. The entire discourse here is one of intimidation and I am not going to be part of it," he says.
Supriyo won this seat in 2014 defeating TMC's Dola Sen while Moon Moon Sen was a giant slayer in Bankura, beating nine-time MP Basudev Acharya. Sen has moved from Bankura to Asansol this time but Supriyo dismisses her rival's prospects.
"Will she ever be able to go back to Bankura? Why did she flee Bankura and come to Asansol. She did nothing there. Look at the social media jokes about her. She is calling workers from Bihar police ka khabri and calling me a servant. She is invoking her dead mother for votes. It's deplorable. Why would people vote for Suchitra Sen's soul's peace? When did Suchitra Sen becomes TMC's.
She has got a lot of love and adulation from the people when she was alive and rather than be happy, her soul would be very sad when she sees her daughter in a mafia party flanked by coal mafias," argues Supriyo.
Moon Moon Sen had created a storm when while campaigning in Amritnagar area here when she described the Bihari population in Bengal as "police informers". The colliery belt of Asansol has a considerable number of non-Bengali, particularly Bihari, population.
Again at another rally, Moon Moon had urged people to vote for her so it would bring peace to her mother's departed soul. She has been using her mother's name frequently in her campaign speeches.
"I am Suchitra Sen's daughter. When I come to Asansol, I feel her beside me," she said in that rally.
Late for his meetings, Supriyo steps out of his flat, even as dozens of people wait for him - people who need medical aid, his party workers who need his signature and even young girls waiting for a selfie.
Supriyo helps out most, referring some to his office workers, as he hops into a waiting SUV. While travelling through Asansol town, Supriyo waves at people and at a petrol pump, stops to chat with the attendants, making sure to tell them that the central forces are in all booths so they should come and exercise their franchise.
Coming back to Sen, Supriyo recalls how in 1992, he was part of an album by HMV where he had sung for Tapas Pal, a TMC MP, and Moon Moon Sen.
"I think it was titled 'Antakshari' and surprisingly Tapas Pal and Moon Moon Sen featured in it and I sang all the songs. So, our friendship goes back a long time. But now I would definitely not speak to her if I see her doing social events or while campaigning. I am absolutely disappointed and in many ways infuriated by the way she has carried herself," he says.
Sen could not be reached despite repeated calls to seek her version of their friendship. Ask Supriyo if politics has even changed him and he says, "I was always friendly. I always lived life like this. I think I have become a better person in terms of anger management, patience. So politics has helped me improve. I always sang 'kuch to log kahenge' with all my heart. But now, when I sing it, people say there is much more effect," he says.