It has been over 24 hours since councillor A Pooja Rao’s husband A Srinivasan Naidu alias Srinu Rao (27) and his aide Dharma Rao (25) were gunned down in Kharagpur. In the no-frills railway township, Naidu’s under-construction club stood out. A posh gym with an indoor swimming pool was being planned at Ward 18 of Kharagpur Municipality, 140 km from Kolkata. In a corner was a special kennel housing eight dogs of foreign breed.
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Naidu’s forefathers were labourers with the Railways. “He got the job as a Group D staffer with the Railways in 2008,” said Naidu’s widow A Pooja Rao, councillor of Ward 18.
He would soon move on to selling illegal scrap from his employer, allegedly earning crores in the process. At the time of his murder, he had over 45 criminal cases against him.
The year 2010 was when Naidu’s political clout grew. He was then working as an aide to Trinamool Congress’ Shivaji Rao. He is alleged to have used his “muscle power” to ensure Rao won the polls from Ward 18.
“He knew he had a bad image and couldn’t fight elections directly. So he started bargaining for his wife,” said a local TMC supporter. The move did not seem to work — Naidu was jailed for his “criminal past”. But the BJP filled the void. Pooja contested the municipal elections in 2015, backed by the BJP, against Shivaji Rao and won.
The TMC, it is learnt, then started speaking to Naidu and Pooja. Naidu was freed and Pooja joined the TMC. Pooja rose to become chairman-in-council of the tax and revenue department.
“He changed… He was there for us,” said Baby Prasad, a local resident. “After his wife became councillor, he started paying school fees of poor children.”
“He was a small fish who befriended crocodiles. When he started considering himself equal to them, they ended his story,” said Shankar Rao, another local.
‘No one saw anything’
The shooting took place at 2.45 pm on Wednesday. A car with unidentified men arrived at the TMC office in Kharagpur. They allegedly opened fire and hurled bombs, killing the two ruling party supporters. The catch: No one saw anything.
The area is home to around 900 people. “It is strange that no one saw anything,” said a relative of Naidu.
Accusing state BJP chief and Kharagpur MLA Dilip Ghosh, Kharagpur Municipality Chairman Pradip Sarkar said: “The MLA is flexing his muscles. I don’t want to blame anyone but it could be a possibility.” A case has been lodged on a complaint filed by V Meena Kumar, Naidu’s mother-in-law.