The West Bengal Police on Tuesday, 23 February, arrested West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Rakesh Singh in a case of alleged drug peddling involving Bengal BJP Youth Morcha (BJYM) office bearer, Pamela Goswami.
Singh was picked up from Burdwan after evading arrest all day, even as the Kolkata Police visited his residence in the city. He was tracked on the basis of his cellphone location and the Kolkata Police, thereafter, took custody of him.
Singh was named by Goswami, as a "close aide" of BJP's national General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya. She alleged that Singh had conspired to entrap her in the drug case. On 19 February the Kolkata Police arrested Goswami from her car in the city's Alipore area after she was allegedly found in possession of 100gms of cocaine. Who is Rakesh Singh, though? Let's find out.
A Former Congress 'Strongman', Once An MLA Candidate
Prior to joining the BJP, Rakesh Singh was a member of the Congress. In the 2016 West Bengal elections, he was a candidate of the Congress party, then a part of an alliance with the Left Front, from the Kolkata Port area.
"Rakesh Singh was known as a small-time muscleman in the Port area. For the Congress, he was a manforce supplier - someone who'd arrange men for rallies", a member of the West Bengal Congress told The Quint.
Singh was in competition with the Congress' other strongman in the area, Mohammad Mukhtar, to gain control over the Port area.
Since he was given a ticket in 2016, Singh's influence in the Congress and the Port area, increased.
"Singh was given a ticket by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. It was expected that he would counter the Trinamool Congress' Firhad Hakim in the region with his clout. Unfortunately, he lost that election", said the Congress insider.
The decision to give Singh a ticket caused disagreement within the Congress, as party purists considered him as a "criminal and nothing more".
Many of these purists believed that "elements like Singh" were far away from the "Congress ethos" and that the party must be wary of "anti-social people".
Singh's 2016 election affidavit said that he had 24 registered criminal cases against him at the time, which included multiple charges of attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation, among others. The Calcutta High Court, while quashing Singh's appeal to stay police investigation against him in the Pamela drug case on 23 February, said that he had 54 criminal cases to his name.
It reached a point in the Bengal Congress, sources say, wherein certain state leaders would persuade leaders from Delhi to not share a party stage with Singh and the likes.
Singh's wings in the Congress were, however, clipped after the late Somen Mitra took over as West Bengal Congress President in 2018.
Thereafter, disagreements continued between Singh and the leadership till he deserted the party in 2019.
Sources in the Bengal BJP say that Singh was "hand-picked" by BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya. He joined the saffron party at the headquarters in Delhi, inducted by Vijayvargiya and BJP leader Mukul Roy, a few months before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
However, the purists within the BJP, had the same reservations against Singh as the purists in the Congress.
"People like Rakesh Singh are seen in the party like the recent defectors from Trinamool are seen. They are not social elements. They've done harm to BJP in the past. They're just being inducted on the instruction of the senior leadership in Delhi. However, they add no value to the party", said a senior source in the Bengal BJP, a member of the party and Bengal right-wing since 2010.
"He is known to be a "strongman" in the Port area. However, he failed to deliver the number of people asked off him in most BJP events", said the source.
Another source in the BJP says that CISF security given to Singh by the Centre was also Vijayvargiya's idea and doing.
"Honestly, there are regular karyakartas in the BJP who have more threat to their lives than Rakesh Singh. These are excesses and indulgences made by the Delhi leadership to those like Singh who they perceive to be important", the source said.
What Is The Connection Between Rakesh Singh & Pamela Goswami?
The senior leadership of BJP says that they were unaware of any major problems between Pamela and Singh till the drug controversy came to the fore.
"They were both very new and small members of the party. We knew Pamela as a young, enthusiastic worker who was given a position in the BJYM for her work. We had no idea what her personal life was like", said a senior BJP leader.
A member of the said BJP leader's team, however, said that there was one incident in past few months when Pamela tried to seek "help" from the senior leadership in a matter involving Rakesh.
"I'm not clear about the details but there was some kind of monetary transaction between the two for business purposes. She came into our office one day saying that Singh alongwith his men had gone to her residence and threatened her. She said she'd leave her home and go live with her boyfriend", said the aide to the BJP leader.
The Quint has also learnt from sources in the Trinamool that Goswami had tried to reach out to the party and that the party had also granted her a meeting.
TMC spokesperson, Kunal Ghosh, on a Bengali news channel, accepted that Goswami had reached out to him for a meeting the day before he was arrested.
In the same programme, BJP Bengal Vice President and spokesperson, Jay Prakash Mazumdar, furnished a photo of Goswami with the son of Trinamool minister Sujit Bose.
"It is these back-channel connections that these new joinees maintain that is a problem for us. They may be in the BJP but they are not devoted to the party like us who've been trained by the RSS and are working in the party since the time it had no organisational force in Bengal", said the senior BJP leader.
As of now the senior leadership of the saffron party is refraining from commenting on the case and have unanimously said that the "law must take its course".
However, this incident does bring to fore, once again, the divide between the old and the new in BJP Bengal.