Kolkata: Several estranged bedfellows in Bengal politics have recently embarrassed their leadership with titillating marital — and extra-marital — shenanigans in public.
Nearly half a dozen politicians, mostly from the Trinamool Congress, do not seem to have heard of the idiom “behind closed doors” as their marriage and relationships play out in social media — post by post.
The first to bare his heart was former Trinamool minister and Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee. Smitten by a professor of political science, he left his now-MLA wife Ratna and two children towards the end of 2017. He also filed for divorce from his wife of 23 years.
Chatterjee moved in with his friend and professor Baisakhi Banerjee — and became “so immersed in his personal affairs” that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee soon removed him from all posts, including ministership.
Several months ago, a BJP MP fought back tears on live television, and announced his decision to divorce his wife “within 48 hours” for joining the Trinamool Congress. MP Saumitra Khan sent her the divorce papers the very next day.
Khan and his wife Sujata Mondal had worked in the Congress together, then hopped to the BJP, which sent Khan to Parliament.
Two years on, before the 2021 Assembly elections, Sujata was back in the Trinamool and Khan — almost crying — accused Mamata Banerjee of stealing his wife.
He sniffled: “We fought on certain issues like all husbands and wives do, but trust me, I never looked at any other woman in the last 10 years.”
Though Sujata lost the Assembly election, she held out an olive branch to her husband — once again, through television — and asked him to come back to Trinamool to save the marriage.
If former Mamata-loyalist Mukul Roy could be back, her husband too “could realise his mistakes of joining the BJP”.
A smarting Saumitra reacted, saying he would never return to the Trinamool.
Recently elected Trinamool MLA Kanchan Mullick also spoke out this week after his actor wife Pinki Banerjee accused him of adultery. The comedian-turned-politician addressed his wife via media and asked for “freedom”. “I will take care of our son but spare me the false accusations,” he told her through the media.
The Trinamool Congress’ marital woes have also reached Parliament. Within two years of taking oath, resplendent as a new bride wearing sindoor, MP Nusrat Jahan Ruhi is now trying to say her marriage was at best a “live-in” relationship.
Separated from “husband” Nikhil Jain for several months, the actor-turned politician explained her “position”, amid rumours that she was romancing a co-star.
She released a statement to the media that said her “marriage” with Nikhil Jain took place in Turkey and was not registered in India. She claimed her “marriage” was, therefore, not valid here.
This claim was hotly contested by Nikhil Jain as well as BJP MPs who said she took oath as Nusrat Jahan Ruhi Jain, and Parliament records show her as married. Will Nusrat’s case land up with the ethics committee? Next post.
The unending Sovan-Baisakhi saga
The evergreen pair of Sovan-Baisakhi dropped another Facebook bomb in the living rooms of people this weekend.
Implying that some of his land was being misappropriated by his in-laws, Chatterjee gave power of attorney to Baisakhi to execute all property-related matters. He made it clear he had also made a will in her name because she was the only “trustworthy” person in his life. “I give you that dignity in this relationship,” he addressed her in the streaming episode, two-part session titled “The Truth Behind The Veil”.
The same day, Baisakhi created a Facebook page titled ‘Baisakhi Sovan Banerjee’. She said it was a “a joint account to communicate with our audiences”. “This page indicates ‘I’ has become ‘Us’,” Chatterjee said.
Behala East MLA and Sovan’s estranged wife, Ratna Chatterjee, said she would go to court against this decision.
She fumed: “Baisakhi has been staying with my husband to grab his properties. She wants to deprive the rightful heirs of Sovan Chatterjee.”
Ratna also claimed her husband had been “honey trapped” and that he could be “murdered” for the property.
Baisakhi retorted, saying she had approached the Kolkata Police for protection against such threats. “He is a large-hearted person to have made the power-of-attorney gesture,” she added.
Chatterjee’s son Rishi questioned the legal standing of his father’s decision. He called his father “selfish”, who only thought of his “love life”.
Chatterjee’s father-in-law and Trinamool’s Maheshtala MLA Dulal Das said, “Sovan won’t go anywhere by depriving his children.” Das criticised Chatterjee’s for “taking the surname” of Baisakhi on the Facebook joint page — ‘Baisakhi Sovan Banerjee’. “In Indian tradition, a wife takes a husband’s surname,” Das said.
He appealed to the people to denounce this live-in relationship, otherwise “societal norms will break down”. “Families will break down,” he said.
Chatterjee and Ratna’s divorce is pending in court. In her 2021 election affidavit, Ratna had mentioned Chatterjee as her husband.
Chatterjee left Trinamool with Baisakhi before the 2019 general elections, and came back to his alma mater before the 2021 Assembly polls. His live-in partner followed him back. Both resigned from the BJP because they were denied tickets in the state polls, according to their choices of constituencies.
In May, Chatterjee was arrested in the Narada graft case along with other Trinamool leaders Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee and Madan Mitra. He was later released on bail.
Trinamool Congress reacts
While the Trinamool leadership has been silent on the rest of the moaning pack, lovebirds Chatterjee and Baisakhi have become quite an “irritant”.
Trinamool state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said he would not comment on the others as the “party has nothing to do with the personal problems of couples”.
“But the Sovan-Baisakhi saga is hanging from a circus trapeze,” Ghosh said. The leader said the duo frequently “dragged in Mamata Banerjee’s name” or unnecessarily made the party “an element in their personal issues”.
“A few days ago, they had even made BJP a party to their personal woes. This is not desirable for us,” Ghosh said, adding that the two had become an “eyesore for all parties”.