Rebel Trinamool MPs rally around former Mamata baiter Somen Mitra

Kolkata, Sep 21 (IANS) There has been speculation for long that some Trinamool Congress MPs were cut up with the party leadership and were only waiting for the right time to raise the banner of revolt. The dissidence finally poured out into the open Friday with three parliamentarians launching an attack on the party leadership, even not sparing party supremo Mamata Banerjee.

The stage was a blood donation camp organised by Trinamool Lok Sabha member Somen Mitra and his wife – rebel party legislator Shikha Mitra – at Bowbazar in central Kolkata. Bowbazar is regarded the stronghold of Somen Mitra, a former state Congress chief and now considered the rallying point for Trinamool rebels.

Known for being a fine strategist and party manager, Mitra had outwitted Banerjee time and again in the Congress organisation, and is perceived to be the main reason for the present West Bengal chief minister launching the Trinamool in 1998.

However, he fell out with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in 2000 when she refused to let him contest the Rajya Sabha elections. Mitra hit back by ensuring the defeat of the Congress candidate.

For the next eight years, Mitra licked his wounds, as Gandhi constantly cold-shouldered him. In 2008, he left the Congress and was rewarded with the Trinamool ticket for the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha seat the next year.

However, Mitra has been like a fish out of water in the Trinamool, where he never carried any weight.

Mitra's wife Shikha has carried on his fight by taking repeated pot-shots at the leadership, including Banerjee's style of functioning and the "sycophants" surrounding the party supremo.

The leadership had claimed she was under suspension, but the legislator claims she never got any letter to this effect.

So, it was no surprise that the revolt broke out in Mitra's presence – in his backyard.

Leading Bengali film actors Tapas Pal and Satabdi Roy –Lok Sabha members from Krishnanagar in Nadia district and Birbhum respectively – and journalist-turned Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh - let loose steam at the programme.

Ghosh, who earlier faced police grilling in the Saradha scam – the multi-billion rupee chit fund muddle that has rocked West Bengal - alleged he has been made a scapegoat by those involved in the scandal.

"The burden of the Saradha scam has been put on my shoulders. Those involved are trying to hush it up by firing from my shoulders. But I won't let them do so."

Ghosh, who headed Saradha Group's media arm till April, said he was ready to face even a Central Bureau of Investigation probe.

The Trinamool MP also questioned the honesty of the leadership, saying: "There is a limit to the image of honesty". With Banerjee being regularly touted as a "symbol of honesty" in Trinamool posters and banners, there was no doubt who Ghosh's target was.

A day after his revolt, Ghosh Saturday faced a second round of quizzing at the Bidhannagar Commissionerate probing the Saradha scam.

At the blood donation camp, Roy and Pal both praised Shikha Mitra for having the guts to "say the truth".

The grievances of the actor-MP duo lay in their marginalisation in the districts which they represent in the Lok Sabha and failure to get easy access to Banerjee.

Despite not uttering a word against the leadership at the programme, Somen Mitra justified the MPs' comments. "They have their discontent. So they have expressed that".

Asked whether he was quitting Trinamool, Mitra said: "Not yet."

But he kept open a possibility of leaving the party in future. "Who can tell about the future?" Mitra quipped.

But all the MPs professed their allegiance to Mitra.

"I brought him to the Trinamool. Whatever decision he takes, I am with him," said Ghosh.

Political observers feel the main grouse of the dissidents is against Trinamool General Secretary Mukul Roy, Banerjee's second-in-command who wields enormous clout both in the party and the government.

Reacting swiftly, Mukul Roy announced that under instructions of the party supremo, the disciplinary committee has decided to slap show cause notices on Satabdi Roy, Pal and Ghosh.

Trinamool circles feel with all three being political lightweights, they do not pose any challenge to the leadership, which wants to crack down heavily to nip any possibilities of the ranks of rebels swelling.

For strategic reasons, no action has been contemplated for the time being against Somen Mitra, but the leadership has kept him under close watch, say Trinamool sources.

This is not the first time that Banerjee has had problems with her MPs. Singer turned Lok Sabha MP from Jadavpur Kabir Suman has been a constant irritant,composing several songs and parodies criticising the Banerjee-led government.

Another MP, Dinesh Trivedi, who was made railway minister in 2009, found himself at the wrong end of Banerjee's fury after he proposed all-round fair hikes in the budget and got the axe. Though he initially struck discordant notes, Trivedi has remained virtually mum of late.

(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at s.panth@ians.in)

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