Kolkata: Arrested in April 2012 for circulating cartoons lampooning Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on email, Ambikesh Mahapatra is now contesting the Bengal assembly elections against her party as an independent candidate.
Professor Mahapatra is contesting from the Behala East constituency against Trinamool heavyweight and Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee. The Chemistry teacher from Jadhavpur University is now member of a group called 'Aakranta Aamaraa' or 'we, the attacked.' Their war cry is: restore democracy and freedom of speech in the state. Protima Dutta from the group is contesting from Domjur in Howrah. Dutta's husband, a Trinamool activist, was killed in 2011 allegedly by a rival faction within her own party for protesting against an illegal construction.
"Not just me but many others were attacked in West Bengal by the ruling party in collaboration with the police administration headed by Mamata Banerjee," Prof Mahapatra told NDTV.
Campaigning for Prof Mahapatra is Shiladitya Chowdhury, who was branded a Maoist for questioning the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on rising fertiliser prices. He's unable to get over the trauma of being jailed, he told NDTV, "All citizens in West Bengal should give a fitting reply to Mamata Banerjee. We have been tortured. We have stood up to it."
In response to Prof Mahapatra's charge that democracy has suffered under Ms Banerjee, Sovan Chatterjee says it was the Left Front that subverted freedom of speech in Bengal by attacking then opposition leaders like him and the current chief minister.
"Mr Mahapatra was arrested in a situation four or five years ago. At that time the administration could not enter certain parts of Bengal. Every day there would be murders and these were Maoist conspiracies," Mr Chatterjee told NDTV.
The Narada sting - which allegedly showed Trinamool leaders accepting money - is a conspiracy hatched by BJP chief Amit Shah with the support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This, days after Mr Modi raked up "Saradha and Narada" in his campaign speech in West Bengal.