FORMER WEST Bengal chief secretary Ardhendu Sen has decided to campaign against the Trinamool Congress ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections.
Sen has picked Ambikesh Mahapatra — the Jadavpur University professor who was arrested for circulating a cartoon depicting Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee — as his candidate for lending support.
“I thought the time had come. The situation in the state is very bad. I want people to think deeply and carefully before casting their vote,” said Sen, a 1976-batch IAS officer who had served as chief secretary to former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in 2010.
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Clarifying that he was “not entering politics”, Sen said his intention is to explain to people about the “prevailing issues”.
“No one approached me. I have been writing about the issues in a number of newspapers, but I felt that in such bad times, I should also go out and explain to people about the prevailing issues. I will be campaigning for the alliance,” he said.
Sen was referring to the alliance between Left Front and Congress, which is jointly supporting Mahapatra, who is contesting from Behala East as an Independent candidate against TMC heavyweight Sovan Chatterjee (the mayor of Kolkata). Although Chatterjee has been drawing a lot of flak from the Opposition recently over a sting video purportedly showing him accepting money to aid a fictitious company, he is still believed to be a favourite from this seat.
Mahapatra, on the other hand, is the convener of ‘Aakranta Aamara’ (We are the Assaulted) – a rights group comprising individuals claiming to be “victims of human rights violations under the Mamata Banerjee regime”. Retired Supreme Court judge Ashok Ganguly, too, is a member of the group.
Sen’s foray, albeit for “just campaigning”, makes him the second West Bengal chief secretary to get involved with the Assembly elections. In 2011, TMC’s Manish Gupta — an IAS officer who had worked as chief secretary to Jyoti Basu — historically defeated his former boss Buddhadeb from the Jadavpur seat, a traditional Left stronghold.
Sen’s decision, meanwhile,has left several of his former colleagues surprised.
A senior bureaucrat in the West Bengal government said, “He was never one to mince words, nor was he one who tried to get close to politicians. He did his job and had a reputation of being a hard but fair man. During Singur and Nandigram, he was fiercely critical of his chief minister’s decisions and did not refrain from voicing them.”
Sen presently lives in Gurgaon and had been an IAS officer for 34 years.
During his tenure with the Bengal government, he served as Managing Director of West Bengal Small Industries Corporation (1988-1993) and for the central government, he had served as Director, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas; Secretary, Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB); and Director of GAIL. Sen was also a member of the team which had negotiated the terms for import of gas from Iran and Oman and LNG from Qatar as well as the Asian Development Bank loan for Hazira-Bijapur-Jagdishpur pipeline expansion.