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Ex-Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee meets Mamata Banerjee, speculates return to Trinamool Congress


KOLKATA: Former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee on Wednesday met West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat, fuelling speculation of his return to the state's ruling party.

Chatterjee, who was accompanied by friend Baisakhi Bandopadhyay to 'Nabanna', avoided a direct reply to questions over his next move and told reporters that he would follow directions of "Mamata di". "Whatever decision Mamata di takes, I will abide by it. I will follow her directions," he told reporters after an hour-long meeting.

Asked if he was ready to join politics again after keeping away from it for more than a year, Chatterjee wondered whether any individual is "apolitical" in West Bengal. "My soul lies in TMC, where I have grown both as an individual and politician. Although we took different paths politically for a brief period, we have always maintained our relationship," he said.

Both Chatterjee and his friend had severed ties with the TMC and joined the BJP in 2019, only to quit the saffron party again two years later. The duo was miffed after Bandopadhyay did not make it to the BJP candidate list for Assembly polls, and Chatterjee was denied a ticket of his choice.

Chatterjee, a two-time mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, had also served as a minister in Mamata Banerjee-led cabinet. Bandopadhyay, talking to reporters after the meeting, said that "differences between (Mamata) Banerjee and Chatterjee" have been resolved. "After Sovan had quit BJP, many people had written his political obituary. But he still has a lot to do in politics," she added.

The chief minister is known to have played a key role in shaping Chatterjee's political career, which like her, had begun in the Youth Congress. Banerjee asked him to resign from his posts as minister and mayor in November 2018 after problems in his personal life became public.

Chatterjee's estranged wife Ratna is TMC legislator from Behala Purba. "I can't comment on the meeting. It is for the chief minister to decide," she said. Senior TMC leader and spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said several leaders who had left the party ahead of the assembly polls have realised their mistakes and wish to return.

The West Bengal BJP also declined comment on the development. "It is for them to decide what they want to do or not. They are no longer a member of BJP, and it does not matter," saffron party leader Samik Bhattacharya maintained.

The state BJP unit has been fighting hard to keep its flock together after former Union minister Babul Supriyo, party MP Arjun Singh and five legislators, including its national vice president Mukul Roy, switched over to the TMC in the course of one year.

Several senior TMC leaders such Rajib Banerjee and Sabyasachi Dutta, who had joined the saffron camp in the past two to three years, have also returned to the Mamata Banerjee-led party.