Sudip Roy Barman, 50, stunned many across the country Monday when he picked up the Speaker’s mace and made a dash across the Tripura assembly. In Tripura, however, many leaders have found it characteristic of a man whom at least one described as an “unconventional, often controversial” politician.
Son of former Congress CM Samir Ranjan Barman, Sudip is a former Tripura PCC president and now Trinamool Congress state general secretary. In 2013, the Congress projected him as CM candidate; in 2016, he rebelled after the Congress allied with the Left in West Bengal. He met Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata and eventually led a group of six MLAs defecting to her party.
Watch the video here:
On Monday, the last day of the assembly session, Barman had led the Opposition in demanding the dismissal of Forest Minister Naresh Jamatia, who had been arrested on charges of molesting a seven-year-old girl, and later released on bail. Accusing Speaker Ramendra Chandra Debnath of not allowing a discussion, Barman moved into the well, grabbed the mace and ran towards the doors. “For a second, we didn’t know what to make of it,” said a Congress MLA. Barman dodged pursuers until he reached the doors, where marshal Arun Chandra Das recovered the mace and reinstated it on the Speaker’s table.
“I am ashamed,” the Speaker told The Indian Express. “He is a senior member, is this the message he wants to give his juniors?” Barman explained: “I was trying to get the Speaker’s attention. He wasn’t allowing a discussion on a topic of vital importance.”
His action came amid indications of an uncertain political future. Even his decision to leave the Congress, in fact, had followed what was perceived as a fall in popularity — in 2012, for instance, Barman earned notoriety by allegedly slapping a 55-year-old Army officer. “With the six MLAs joining our party, we gained numerically but the question whether they will win the next election is doubtful,” said a Trinamool leader in Kolkata. “The six MLAs are often described as ‘second-hand goods’.”
Before joining Trinamool, Barman had a meeting with Mukul Roy, tasked with increasing the party’s influence in Tripura. Barman may be hoping to be projected as chief ministerial candidate but, as one Trinamool leader put it, “Roy is the face of the party in Tripura ahead of the 2018 polls. This is not something Barman can ignore.” The leader drew a parallel Nripen Chakraborty, CPM veteran who was sent from Bengal to found the Communist movement in Tripura and who went on to head the first Left Front government in Tripura in 1978.
Complicating Barman’s position are his equations with the BJP. The Tripura unit led by Barman has reportedly looked to informally ally with the BJP. A BJP leader said, “We were in talks with them… It all depends on the Trinamool organisation. We feel by 2018, Trinamool will break and many will join BJP.”