A patron in high place

Calcutta, Jan. 18: A closely guarded secret in Trinamul echelons about the close proximity of industries minister Partha Chatterjee and Bhangar strongman Arabul Islam tumbled out in the open today.

As Trinamul insiders were busy discussing the factors that prompted Arabul's arrest and its effects in South 24-Parganas, the Bhangar leader's rise under Chatterjee's patronage cropped up time and again.

"After the 2006 polls, Arabul was among the 30 Trinamul MLAs in the Assembly. Parthada was the Opposition leader. Arabul was always there to echo positions in the Assembly that endeared him to Parthada," a Trinamul source said.

The source said Chatterjee and Arabul became closer after the senior leader became the industries minister.

Although Arabul lost in the 2011 Assembly polls, he remained a force to reckon with in Bhangar, bordering North and South 24-Parganas.

The sources said Chatterjee, as industries minister, found Arabul's "influence" on the ground useful.

A source said Chatterjee wanted a smooth handover of 50 acres to Infosys in Action Area III of Newtown, which falls under Bhangar-II block.

The project had run into rough weather as residents refused to hand over land for laying a link road to the site. The source said Chatterjee had called Arabul to his Camac Street office and told him to ensure there were no obstacles to the project.

"It was a prestige issue for Parthada as he was trying to hard-sell Bengal to investors. Arabul stood at the spot as the work was done. No one came out to protest," a Trinamul leader said.

Party leaders said Arabul followed Chatterjee's instructions as it benefited his syndicate business, which supplies building materials to projects.

The sources said Chatterjee was instrumental in Arabul becoming the head of the Bhangar College governing body. Last year, Arabul had got involved in an argument with a teacher and his flailing hands had sent a jug crashing into her face.

"A section in the party was in favour of an educationist being made the head of the governing body. But Parthada spoke in Arabul's favour, saying he was a resident of the area and could keep a close watch on the day-to-day functioning of the college," a source said.

Even after Arabul's name got embroiled in several controversies, no senior leader spoke against him. After Arabul allegedly led attacks on CPM leader Abdur Rezzak Mollah and Left supporters earlier this month, Chatterjee was all praises for him and called him an "energetic leader".

Arabul's organisational skills, displayed during the anti-land acquisition movement in Bhangar, helped him earn brownie points in the organisation. "Even Mamata Banerjee was impressed. He almost got a free hand in Bhangar," a Trinamul leader said.

The sources said that through Arabul's arrest, the chief minister also sent a message to her number two in the cabinet. "She won't allow anyone to tarnish the party's image," a senior leader said.

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