KOLKATA: Harvard educated and UN peacekeeper-turned-Bengal top cop Bharati Ghosh returned to Ghatal Lok Sabha constituency, an area where she once served as superintendent of police and earned Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s unquestionable trust. She is in with a new assignment this time — to take on Mamata’s favourite candidate and Bengali film star Deepak Adhikary, popularly known as Dev. With BJP’s decision to field former IPS officer Bharati, electors in Ghatal are all set to witness a unique battle between a real-life cop and a reel superstar.
Bharati, a 2006 batch officer, was a key officer in Mamata’s crackdown on Maoists in Jungle Mahal. She had famously been described by the Bengal chief minister in administrative rallies as her daughter and “bhalo meye” (good girl).
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Relations between Mamata and Bharati soured after the results of bypoll in Sabang Assembly constituency in 2017, reflecting BJP’s remarkable rise in the area. The saffron party secured a 15% rise in vote share and Mamata held Bharati responsible for it, even accusing her of hatching a conspiracy in connivance with Mukul Roy — at present a senior BJP leader in Bengal — to defeat Trinamool. Ghosh was charged with corruption by the state government on February 1, 2018.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed BJP’s Bengal unit after the party gained significant vote share in Sabang. “Happy to see a significant rise in BJP vote share in Sabang, West Bengal. I thank the people for their support and assure them that BJP will leave no stone unturned in serving West Bengal…’’ Modi had tweeted. Even as the Sabang bypoll caught the PM’s attention, Mamata immediately sidelined Bharati.
‘‘She (Mamata) considered BJP’s jump from 2.6% in 2016 Assembly elections to 18.8% in the bypoll as a political threat. In the by-election, the BJP had made its first inroads in the area,’’ said a BJP leader in Jhargram.
A section of electors believe, the BJP selecting Bharati as a candidate for Ghatal Lok Sabha constituency, was a well calculated strategic move.“She ruled West Midnapore district and knows every remote pocket in the area where Trinamool might try to apply state power on Election Day. Bharati knows the area like the back of her hands. She was always determined to win against her enemies — be it Maoists or politicians,” said a Trinamool leader in Ghatal.
Dahareshwar Sen, a secretariat member of CPM’s Jhargram district, too, echoed the same feelings. “Mamata utilised her not only to combat Maoists but also in surveillance over her political enemies. The ruling party is scared because they know that Bharati is well aware of their tricks,’’ said Sen.
Realising the BJP is posing a formidable challenge in Ghatal’s adjoining Midnapore Lok Sabha constituency, Mamata fielded Trinamool Rajya Sabha member Manas Bhuniya who defected from the Congress in 2016. Bhuniya replaced veteran actress and incumbent MP Sandhya Roy, who opted out for “health reasons’’.
Insiders in the Trinamool said Roy was removed because Mamata realised her star image would not work against the saffron wave. “As an MP, Roy failed to deliver. She never participated in debates in the Parliament or asked questions. Our political rivals are highlighting it in their election campaigns. People can still recall the day in 2014 when elections were being held in Midnapore Lok Sabha constituency and Roy kept watching cartoon channels throughout the day,’’ said a Trinamool leader in the district.
For Bhuniya, the election outcome poses no risk to his personal career because if he loses, he will return to his assignment in the Rajya Sabha, opined the leader.
In the panchayat polls last year, the BJP made heavy inroads by winning 13 seats out of 25 in a panchayat samiti. The saffron party made its debut by forming boards in 10 gram panchayats in the area.
Banking on the flow from CPM’s vote bank and common people’s resentment on the issue of corruption by Trinamool’s local leaders, the BJP is eyeing a huge surge in its votes this time.