13/01/2017 1:24 PM IST | Updated 13/01/2017 3:28 PM IST

Why The Murder Of A Gangster In Kharagpur Has Far-Reaching Ramifications For Bengal Politics

This murder has shaken Bengal.

Young Indian supporters of Trinamool Congress (TMC) celebrate the party election results near the house of party supremo and chief minister of eastern West Bengal state, Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on May 16, 2014.

On 11 January, around 2:30 PM, Trinamool Congress strongman, Srinivas Naidu, aka Srinu Naidu, was chatting with some aides inside a party office in Kharagpur, when some armed men, their faces covered, barged into the party office and hurled bombs in their direction. In the blinding smoke and fire, Naidu ran to the toilet and locked the door from inside, hoping the assailants would not be able to reach him. But they broke the door and shot him at point blank range.

Twenty-seven-year old Naidu and an aide, V Dharma (25) were dead. Three other aides sustained injuries and are presently admitted in Kolkata hospitals.

Kharagpur is a bustling town in Bengal's West Midnapore district, approximately 130 km from Kolkata, better known for its IIT. It is a railway township with one of the largest railway workshops in India, and a roaring business related to theft of railway scraps often leads to violent and bloody gang wars.

Srinu Naidu's murder has led to an open war of words between top leaders of Trinamool Congress and the BJP.

Naidu, who had won himself the sobriquet of an underworld don, dealt with railway tenders and sale of railway scraps, apart from sale of land and other properties. He has been arrested in the past on charges of murder, arson, criminal intimidation, bombing, assault, extortion. Srinu was a close aide of local don, Basab Rambabu, but the former began to wield power when Rambabu was arrested several years ago. Srinu later fell out with Rambabu and the two are said to have turned into bitter foes.

This murder has attained a far greater significance than other political murders in Bengal in recent times. Not only because of the manner in which it was executed – a daring operation carried out to perfection – and due to the power Naidu used to wield in the area. The greatest significance of the murder is related to the political standoff between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP.

Srinu is said to have broken the BJP's organisation in Kharagpur to a great extent.

Kharagpur is one of the three seats the BJP has won in Bengal in the 2016 Assembly polls. And it is the BJP's state president Dilip Ghosh, who is the MLA from this seat.

Srinu himself was in the BJP earlier. His wife, Puja, is a Trinamool Congress councillor in the Kharagpur municipality, who was also earlier with the BJP. In fact, when Puja was contesting the elections on a BJP ticket in 2015 and Srinu was also with the BJP, he was arrested just prior to the elections.

Later, Srinu's wife Puja who had won the municipality councillor seat on a BJP ticket, switched over to the Trinamool Congress. Some others had followed her and defected too, and Srinu is said to have broken the BJP's organisation in Kharagpur to a great extent. This is said to have created a lot of bad blood. An estimated 20% residents under Kharagpur municipality are of south Indian origin – they had originally travelled to the area due to railway postings, and gradually settled there, some even for some generations.

Kharagpur is also an area that experienced Hindu-Muslim clashes in recent times: it was one of the several places in Bengal where riots took place, but was hardly reported in the media.

What is also of great importance is the fact that police have detained five persons and arrested another two in the Srinu Naidu murder case, and sources said that one of the five detained have very close association with the RSS.

Srinu Naidu's murder has led to an open war of words between top leaders of Trinamool Congress and the BJP.

Trinamool Congress' Partha Chatterjee has said: "The MLA in the area is not from our party, and such a gruesome incident took place inside our party office. I would expect the police to probe into this angle of the murder and look at the role of the political party concerned, if any. Such mischief-making, such deliberate attempt to ruin the peace of the state won't be tolerated."

Dilip Ghosh has gone a step further and demanded a CBI inquiry into the murder, saying a lot of skeletons would tumble out of the cupboard if such a probe is held.

There may be a money angle or past rivalry that may have led to Srinu's murder, but at the moment the political ramifications of this murder has shaken Bengal.

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