KOLKATA: A renowned journalist, he once greatly admired Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee and penned a large number of op-ed pieces and columns eulogising the leader for her relentless fight against the then firmly entrenched communist rulers in West Bengal.
Now, nearly eight years into Banerjee's chief ministerial tenure, Rantidev Sengupta - the BJP candidate from Howrah - says he is completely disillusioned with her, as she has "stepped into the shoes of the communists" and "failed" to present a transparent government to the state.
"Mamata was then the face of the anti-Left politics in the state. Many people who were fighting the mis-rule of the (CPI-M led) Left Front, that helmed the state for 34 years), had their aspirations and expectations centering around the rise of the Trinamool Congress supremo in Bengal politics.
"But she has disheartened us. She has stepped into the shoes of the Communists," Sengupta, whose political columns and incisive political analysis for the Bengali daily Bartaman made him a household name in Bengal, told IANS in an interview.
The Chief Minister, according to him, has been running an "autocratic government" and pursuing a "shameless" brand of politics in the state.
"I had made up my mind to protest against the destructive politics that she and her party had started after coming to power. I also started writing against her and entered politics protesting her mis-rule," said the 60-year old, who started his journalistic career with the now defunct Bengali magazine Paribartan.
Sengupta admits that his one-time close personal equation with Banerjee has now taken a severe beating.
"Yes, I had a close relation with her and respect for her. When I found she is no different from the Left leaders, I consciously started keeping away from her. Practically, I have no relation with her now."
But he does not regret his earlier write-ups praising Banerjee.
"I do not recognise today's Mamata and cannot even match today's Mamata with the Mamata whom I had seen fighting against the communists during the Left regime. I would not deny her fight and struggle against the Left because it was praiseworthy."
Sengupta, however, firmly believes that a working journalist serving a particular organisation should not join "active politics", and must maintain "an independent stance" and "a certain distance from any political party".
"I never played any role in politics for any political party during my 34-year-long journalisticAcareer," he said.
But now Sengupta is enjoying his new innings as much as he had savoured his days in journalism where he rose to become the Chief Reporter of the Bengali daily Bartaman and the editor of the Group's weekly magazine, Saptahik Bartaman.
He retired from Bartaman two years ago.
Sengupta predicts that Banerjee is now at the "fag-end of her political career".
Donning a white or a saffron kurta and pyjamas with a scarf themed on the party's symbol, Sengupta has been covering the length and breadth of Howrah, going door-to-door, holding rallies and street corner meeetings, as also workers' meetings.
Up against two-term Trinamool MP and former international footballer Prasun Banerjee, who had won the 2014 elections with close to a two lakh margin, Sengupta is confident of victory, as the "people of Howrah will vote for a change".
In 2014, CPI-M candidate Sridip Bhattacharya had come second, while the BJP's George Baker stood third.
"The sitting MP did nothing for his constituency and had no concerted and realistic plan to revive the ailing small, medium manufacturing industries in Howrah, once known as the Sheffield of India".
Taunting Mamata Banerjee's efforts to cobble up a grand alliance of opposition parties, he said it was a "figment of imagination" and would "not see the light of the day".
Attacking Trinamool Congress' opposition to implementing the National Register of Citizens in West Bengal, Sengupta said the saffron party has been committed to implement it to "oust only illegitimate infiltrators" and not refugees.
Though the issue was acebeing wrongly portrayed by many political parties as a "Hindu-Muslim" affair, in reality, it is not, he added.