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Jyotipriyo Mallick: From Mamata loyalist to 'scam-tainted' minister

Kolkata: Jyotipriyo Mallick, a senior TMC leader, saw his four-decade-long political journey take a severe hit as the Enforcement Directorate arrested him on Friday in connection with a money laundering case linked to an alleged multi-crore ration distribution scam in the state.

Sixty-five-year-old Mallick presently holds the portfolios of Forest Affairs and Non-Conventional and Renewable Energy in the Mamata Banerjee government. He was the West Bengal Food Supplies Minister from 2011 to 2021, a period during which the alleged irregularities in ration distribution reportedly took place.

Mallick stepped into politics as a leader of the Congress students’ wing – Chatra Parishad – in the early eighties during his college years, inspired by then-firebrand mass leaders Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi and Mamata Banerjee.

Born into a middle-class family in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district in 1958, he delved into politics while pursuing a career in law.

Recognizing his organizational skills, a local youth Congress leader took Mallick under his wing and introduced him to Mamata Banerjee, who was emerging as a rising star in Bengal politics and the president of the State Youth Congress.

In the early nineties, he became a close associate of Mamata Banerjee, who was then the state Youth Congress president.

In 1998, Mallick was among a few Congress leaders from different districts who broke away from the grand old party to form the Trinamool Congress under Mamata Banerjee’s leadership.

A five-time MLA, he first entered the West Bengal Assembly in 2001, representing the Gaighata constituency in North 24 Parganas district. He went on to win the seat again in 2006.

When the constituency was reserved for the SC category, he shifted to the neighbouring Habra seat, which he won three times from 2011 onwards.

As the political landscape in West Bengal shifted against the erstwhile Left Front regime, Banerjee entrusted Mallick with the responsibility of being the TMC North 24 Parganas district president in 2009, a region traditionally associated with the Left. He lived up to his party’s expectations by securing 28 out of the 33 assembly seats in the district.

After the TMC’s resounding victory in 2011, Banerjee appointed him as the Food Supplies Minister. Mallick’s stature as a politician and organizer continued to rise as he oversaw the capture of all opposition-held municipalities in the district in 2015 and ensured a clean sweep in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the 2016 assembly polls.

Fondly known as ‘Balu’ among his associates and supporters, Mallick consistently attributed his political ascent to his unwavering loyalty to Mamata Banerjee.

As the Food Supplies Minister, he played a pivotal role in eliminating fake ration cards from 2011 to 2013.

However, his tenure came under scrutiny during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, when confrontations outside ration shops were reported due to the denial of food supplies.

Despite allegations of corruption levelled by the opposition, Mallick dismissed them as ‘baseless.’

Nevertheless, the protests took a toll on his political career, resulting in his removal as district president in an organizational reshuffle in August 2020.

He was given the Forest portfolio when the party secured its third consecutive term in power in 2021.

Mallick, known as an approachable politician, also earned a reputation for being at the centre of controversies. His statements on various occasions had occasionally caused embarrassment for the party.

(Published 27 October 2023, 09:37 IST)

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