Partha Chatterjee: Once Mamata's Go-To Man, Now Suspended from TMC Over SSC Case
We trace the meteoric rise and fall of one of TMC’s most significant leaders, Mamata Banerjee's 'go-to' man.
Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar
TMC heavyweight and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s once trusted lieutenant fell from glory after he was suspended from the Trinamool Congress and removed from all positions he held at the party.
The de facto number three was the party’s secretary general, a member of the disciplinary committee and the national vice-president. He has been suspended by the party “till the investigation is underway.”
Chatterjee was arrested by the ED on Saturday 23 July in connection with the alleged irregularities in the recruitment of teachers, clerks and staff in state-run schools.
Earlier in the day, he was also sacked from the cabinet by Banerjee. He was the minister in charge of Industries, Commerce and Enterprises, IT and Electronics, Parliamentary Affairs, Public Enterprises and Industrial Reconstruction.
We trace the meteoric rise and fall of one of West Bengal and TMC’s most significant leaders, one who Banerjee would often rely on when it came to affairs of the party.
The Rise of Partha Chatterjee
Chatterjee’s stint in politics spans over five decades where he has seen it all.
He entered politics as a leader of the Congress Chatra Parishad during his college days (1960s). Inspired by Subrata Mukherjee and Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, he went on to become the general secretary of Ashutosh College’s college union.
He was one of the very few leaders in Bengal’s political circuit to continue his education despite his foray into politics. He secured a master's degree from Calcutta University and then did an MBA from Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management.
He took a break from politics when he worked in Andrew Yule Group as a HR executive. His stint in the corporate world had allowed him to build relationships with several workers who he had aided in getting jobs.
He returned to active politics as soon as Mamata Banerjee formed the Trinamool Congress in 1998.
Hailing from South Kolkata, he contested his first Assembly elections in 2001 from the Behala Paschim seat, which he won. The five-time MLA has never lost the seat since.
He was the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the West Bengal Assembly from 2006 to 2011 and played a key role in fighting the CPI(M) government in the assembly while Banerjee was out taking the fight to the streets.
While he wasn’t a great orator, his strong suit was organizational affairs, which he put to good use not only to build the TMC network from the ground up but also make it a force to reckon with. TMC’s dominating presence on the ground can be credited to Chatterjee.
Like the turtle in the race between the rabbit and the turtle, Chatterjee’s rise was slow but steady. During his initial days at TMC, he was in the shadows of veteran leaders who had joined the party after leaving the Congress, but as they kept retiring, Chatterjee grew to fill up those spaces.
When the TMC formed government in 2011, he was given several key responsibilities in the cabinet including portfolios like industry, IT and parliamentary affairs. In 2014, he was made the minister of higher and school education in the state which he held for seven years.
It was during his stint as the education minister is when the alleged recruitment scam happened.
Partha of All Trades
Over the course of his tenure at TMC, the bright-colour kurta loving minister donned several hats in the party’s organisational affairs – from forming district committees, brainstorming election strategies, handling disciplinary affairs and even mentoring the heir apparent. He has always been Banerjee’s ‘go-to’ person.
He even led the charge for the old guard when there was an imminent rift in the party between the old guard and the new guard, that broke out in February. He has been fiercely loyal to Banerjee since day one and has always been at the forefront of protests and standing up for leaders when they were in trouble. However, he seems to have fallen out with Abhishek Banerjee at some point and the latter's imprint is being seen in his removal.
Interestingly, he was the only senior leader or at least one in Banerjee’s close circle who was not suspected in the Saradha and Narada cases, and it is reported that he used to take pride in that fact. TMC insiders say that that is probably the reason why he could have lost favour with the CM.
Chatterjee was earlier questioned by the CBI in the I-core Chit Fund case before being arrested in the alleged recruitment scam.
Being two years elder to Banerjee, he was fondly called ‘Partha Da’ in the party’s inner circles. The mishti-loving leader loves cellphones, technology and above all, Durga Pujo. He was a regular attendee at Durga pujos with his daughter Sohini and his wife Jayashree, who has since passed away.
In fact, he is the chairman of the Naktala Udayan Sangha in Kolkata, famous for its themed Durga Pujo pandals across the city. It is alleged that this is where Chatterjee met actor and model Arpita Mukherjee.
Who is Arpita Mukherjee?
Mukherjee who has been arrested by the ED in relation to the same SSC case is an actor and a model hailing from a humble family in Kolkata’s Belghoria. Incidentally, she is one of the faces of promotional campaigns of Naktala Udayan Sangha and has featured extensively in its advertisements. She had replaced Rituparna Sengupta as the face of the Sangha.
It is from her residences that the ED has recovered at least Rs 42 crores in cash, along with gold, foreign currency and several documents.
Mukherjee started off as a model and nail-artist and made her way into the film industry having done minor roles in films like Mama Bhagne, Bangla Banchao, The Bhoot of Roseville and more. Later she went on to act in Odia and Tamil films. Her mother Minati Mukherjee claims that Arpita owns a production house.
It is reported that Mukherjee met Chatterjee over a decade ago. During Chatterjee’s stint as education minister, he had once visited a school in the suburbs along with Mukherjee. While it is not clear as to what relation the two individuals share, it is being alleged that Mukherjee is a ‘close associate’ of Chatterjee.
The TMC meanwhile has made it clear that Mukherjee has no relation whatsoever with with the party.
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