New Delhi: Bharati Ghosh, a retired IPS officer who was once considered close to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, will return to the Ghatal Lok Sabha team -- an area where she once served as superintendent until charges of extortion were levelled against her and were probed by the CID. Her new assignment: to take on TMC's filmstar Lok Sabha candidate, Dipak Adhikari.
Who is Bharati Ghosh?
A key officer in Mamata Banerjee's crackdown on Maoists, her rise in the party, catalysed by her closeness to Banerjee, was swift. It was this proximity to the political leadership that prompted Ghosh's transfers in the 2014 and 2016 West Bengal Assembly polls, with the opposition complaining to the EC.
Harvard-educated and UN peacekeeper-turned-Bengal top cop, she had famously been described by Banerjee as her "daughter" and "bhalo meye". Ghosh has an MBA from Jadavpur University, an LLB from Burdwan University in West Bengal and has studied International Marketing and Psycho-Analytical Theory at Harvard University's summer school. Following this, she received the Chevening Gurukul Fellowship of the UK government and studied at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science. She also served in the Uited Nations in different capacities at different locations, including Chad, Ethiopia and Somalia, and was also the UN commander for a multi-brigade force at Kosovo.
Her Rise and Rall
Ghosh's rise coincided with Banerjee's chief ministership in 2011 and her former colleagues in the state police said that her success in "countering left-wing extremism" in the state was key. As the SP of West Midnapore -- a district where the Left had traditionally been strong -- Ghosh was involved in operations to counter Maoism, especially after Maoist leader Kishanji was killed in a shootout by the security forces.
By 2015, Ghosh’s relationship with Banerjee soured and a key reason, said TMC leaders, was her perceived proximity to BJP leader Mukul Roy. After the Sabang bypoll in December 2017, Ghosh was transferred to a less significant posting in command of the third Battalion of the State Armed Police. Soon after, she sought and was granted voluntary retirement.
On February 1 last year, the state police registered a case against Ghosh, her husband and some officers on the basis of a complaint which said the police had taken 75 grams of gold from him on the promise of astronomic returns at the BJP's behest, but didn't return it. Her chartered accountant husband and eight police officials were arrested soon after.
During raids at Ghosh's residence in Naktala and two other premises in Kolkata, the CID claimed to have recovered 50 original land sale deeds amounting to Rs 300 crore, gold jewellery, pen drives, tablets, hard disks and 57 bottles of imported whiskey. During raids at Ghosh’s residence in Naktala and two other premises in Madurdaha and Sarat Chatterjee Avenue, the CID claimed to have recovered 50 original land sales. In October 2018, Ghosh approached the apex court which ordered that "no coercive action" be taken against her. The case remains subjudice.
Of the seven Assembly segments in Ghatal, six are in West Midnapore district and one is in East Midnapore district. Ghosh, as per one TMC leader from the distirct, "was the unquestionable ruler of West Midnapore". The leader said, "There is not one person, not one police officer, who Ghosh doesn't know. She approached the Maoism in the district like someone entrusted with a battle. She is likely to do the same for the elections.”
The sitting MP, Dipak Adhikar, popularly known as Dev, remains one of Bengal's highest paid actors and in 2014 had fought veteran CPI leader Santosh Rana and Congress leader Manas Bhuniya and bagged 8 lakh votes.
But will he be able to repeat the feat five years later? "It will come down to his stardom, the party's support versus Ghosh's goodwill in the area and her knowledge of the area. It will not be easy," admitted the leader.