He was an atheist all these days, but from this year he will observe the puja rituals in classical style, a shattered Madan Mitra told a TV channel on Saturday morning after stepping out of Alipore jail following the court granting him bail on Friday.
“I have been an atheist all along, but from this year I shall observe all the rituals and offer anjali (flower offerings to the goddess) on empty stomach,” Mitra said in his room of a hotel on Sambhunath Pandit Street.
Despite walking free he has to tolerate with a severely truncated freedom, He yearned to go home and meet his grandson, but Mitra could not go there, thanks to the strict court order that also instructed him not to step out of Bhawanipore, deposit his passport and present himself before the CBI once a week.
Read: Madan Mitra gets bail in Saradha case, to walk free tomorrow
The former sports and transport minister, who was, and still is despite the long incarceration, the president of more than a dozen Durga puja committees in town said, “Despite my association with Durga pujas all these years, I have rarely offered anjali, and whenever I had to, I never did it on empty stomach (which is a deviation from the tradition).”
“I will observe the pujas just like a religious man does. I am now a senior citizen. I am not young enough to be a puja organiser anymore,” he also said indicating the 2016 Durga puja will be like none other in his life.
His statement came as a revealation as the Bhawanipore resident was always seen as a champion of Durga puja, even beating drums and indulging in all round revelry. Before the camera, he gave enough indications to surmise that the long stay behind the bars have made him more insecure than the 34 years of Left rule in the state.
But will his late obeisance to the goddess help Mitra in his political career?
There is no clear cut answer, but the goddess in his party seemed to hold the key more than the goddess in the sky.
Read: After Singur verdict, jailed Madan Mitra turned ecstatic
Though Mamata Banerjee dared a lot of criticism to give him a ticket to contest in the 2016 assembly polls from his old constituency Kamarhati, making him the first and only politician in the state to be charged with a criminal case and yet fight the polls from behind the bars, Mitra lost even when his party posted the biggest triumph. Earlier, he also earned the dubious distinction of being the only serving minister in Bengal to be arrested.
After her return from her Rome and Germany trip, Mamata Banerjee refused to comment on the bail order. However, she has earlier said in party circles that she did not believe that Mitra took money from Saradha chairman Sudipta Sen. How the high court responds to the CBI’s fresh petition opposing the bail may also determine the chief minister’s view about his former close lieutenant.
However, to many Madan Mitra is a beloved friend and a few of them were not afraid to say it loud even before the bail. Former Trinamool MP Kabir Suman said in a public address on July 21 that Mitra was a friend who never turned down an appeal for help, and that he was pained to see him languish behind the bars.
The party has now given him time to cool his heels. The leaders have asked him to rest for a few weeks and participate in any political activity or even discussion. “It’s now holiday for me,” he quipped as supporters thronged all around him outsides the gates of the jail a few minutes after 7 am.
Crushed and dejected, Mitra was extremely candid in his hotel room. “I was on the ground earlier, then I reached the top of a mountain. Now I have crashed to the ground again,” he quipped.
Mitra, who was arrested on December 12, 2014 and walked free from Alipore Jail on Saturday morning after spending 617 days behind the bars, has put up in a hotel in Bhawanipore near his home on neighbouring Harish Mukherjee Road.
The 59-year old Mitra, who was once considered a member of the inner circle of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, looked a pale version of his earlier ebullient self. The cheeks, chubby and ready to break into a smile, appeared shrunk. With his palms sheltered under his armpits, his body language, too, before the camera, became visibly diffident.
The former MLA from Kamarhati refused to comment on the Saradha case, and kept emphasising that he was deeply hurt by the allegations of corruption, something his leader Mamata Banerjee too loathes publicly.
“You can say Madan Mitra lashed out against somebody, I can accept it. If you say Madan Mitra turned his back on someone, I can admit it, but if you say I have indulged in corruption, I shall be hurt, extremely hurt,” remarked Madan.
“I have no influence. Haatishaley haati nei, ghorashale ghora nei (All the trappings of power are gone. I am lonely,” he rued.