Mukul Roy targets Mamata Banerjee, nephew; she responds at Kolkata film festival

The West Bengal chief minister and her government dismissed as baseless the allegations levelled by the BJP leader.

kolkata Updated: Nov 10, 2017 23:16 IST
Mukul Roy,Dilip Ghosh,Mamata Banerjee
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee addresses the gathering during the inauguration of the 23rd Kolkata International Film Festival in Kolkata on Friday.(IANS)

Hours after former Trinamool heavyweight and BJP leader Mukul Roy targeted Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee on a number of issues, the West Bengal chief minister and her government dismissed the allegations as baseless.

At his first public rally in Kolkata after joining BJP last Friday, Roy targeted his former boss over the Saradha scam, dengue deaths, frequent foreign trips and the ownerships of Biswa Bangla, a brand promoted by the state government, and Jago Bangla, the Trinamool mouthpiece.

In her response — at the inauguration of the 23rd Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) attended by film stars Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Kamal Haasan and others — Mamata said, “People should broaden their mind instead of playing politics.”

“I don’t go abroad too often. I go once a year. This year, I visited the United Nations (referring to her trip to Hague) to accept an award given to our Kanyashree project,” she said, adding that she was going to London (she left on Friday night) because a plaque will be placed at the residence of Sister Nivedita.

“It is an honour for Bengal,” Mamata said in Bengali.

(Margaret Noble, a Scottish-Irish social worker and author came to India in 1898 as disciple of Swami Vivekananda, founder of Ramakrishna Mission, who named her Sister Nivedita.)

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee with actors Amitabh Bachchan (2nd L), Shah Rukh Khan (2nd R), Kajol (R) and Kamal Haasan (L) during the inauguration of the 23rd Kolkata International Film Festival in Kolkata on Friday. (IANS)

“The programme in London is being jointly organised by the Ramakrishna Mission and the state government,” she said, wondering why she shouldn’t organise Durga Puja and other festivals.

“These are part of Bengal’s culture,” she said, catching many in the audience by surprise as the Trinamool had so far chosen to ignore Roy’s move to the BJP.

Roy had accused Mamata of making frequent trips to foreign countries with a big team to woo investors, but in vain. He also compared Mamata to former state CM Jyoti Basu of the CPI(M) who used to take only a few people with him abroad.

He had also referred to cultural festivals organised by the government, saying the administration ignore the dengue deaths in the state.

The most serious allegation was that Mamata’s nephew Abhisek Banerjee, a Lok Sabha MP, was the actual owner of the Biswa Bangla brand and party mouthpiece Jago Bangla.

“Biswa Bangla, sponsor of the recent Under- 17 FiFA World Cup, is owned by Abhishek Banerjee. It is not a government entity. Rather it is a private entity owned by the chief minister’s nephew,” he said.

“All campaign material, party literature, monograms, etc. of Trinamool Congress are printed by a company owned by Abhishek Banerjee. Perhaps few in the ruling party know it,” Roy alleged.

The 63-year old former Rajya Sabha MP alleged that Trinamool Congress had turned into a “limited company”, hinting that it had become the personal fiefdom of the chief minister.

Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol during inauguration of the 23rd Kolkata International Film Festival in Kolkata on Friday. (PTI)

Though bureaucrats never react to allegations raised at political rallies, state home secretary Atri Bhattacharya refuted Roy’s allegation at Nabanna, the state secretariat an hour after the rally.

“The allegation is baseless. The Biswa Bangla brand and logo were created by the chief minister. She has given it to the West Bengal government. The brand and the logo are registered in the name of the government. These are not owned by any individual,” said Bhattacharya.

On the Jago Bangla allegation, Trinamool secretary general and state education minister Partha Chatterjee dismissed it as baseless at the party’s headquarters.

“Mamata Banerjee set up Jago Bangla with the money she made by selling her paintings? Doesn’t Mukul Roy know the people in the advisory board of Jago Bangla? Why is he alleging that Abhishek is the owner of Jago Bangla? Let there be an investigations. If the charges the proved I will quit politics,” said Chatterjee.

Former Trinamool leader Mukul Roy, who recently joined BJP, addresses a rally in Kolkata on Friday. (PTI)

Mamata met Saradha chief Sudipta Sen: Roy

Roy also alleged that Mamata had met Saradha Group boss Sudipta Sen several times.

He said he was present in a much-discussed meeting at Delo in Kalimpong along with journalist-turned-TMC MP Kunal Ghosh.

“Meetings also took place at Pratidin office and the residence of painter Suvaprasannah,” he said, promising to reveal more when people gather in lakhs.

The CBI is probing the fraudulent chit fund scheme run by Saradha Group that collapsed in 2013 leading to loss of Rs 2,500 crore deposits for about 17 lakh investors.

Several ruling party leaders were interrogated by CBI.

Incidentally, in a 91-page letter released in 2014, Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh alleged that Mamata met Sudipta Sen at a tourist lodge in Delo where he was also present.

Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee, dismissed the allegations, saying, “He has not said anything new. He is merely repeating stuff.”

Amitabh Bachchan, who inaugurated the film festival, Shah Rukh Khan, the chief guest, and a host of luminaries including actor Kamal Haasan and British director Michael Winterbottom were seated on the dais as she spoke.

Actors Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan and Shah Rukh Khan talk during the inauguration of the 23rd Kolkata International Film Festival in Kolkata. (IANS)

Interestingly, the festival was inaugurated at Netaji Indoor Stadium, which is barely half a kilometre from the BJP rally site.

Trinamool leaders said Friday’s development, especially Mamata Banerjee’s reaction at the film festival, was disturbing. “It seems Roy will continue to take potshots at Trinamool leaders, especially the chief minister,” a senior leader said.

First Published: Nov 10, 2017 15:40 IST