The Enforcement Directorate on Friday arrested West Bengal Minister Jyotipriya Mullick in a case related to alleged irregularities in the State’s public distribution system.

Mallick, a senior Trinamool Congress leader, was arrested in the early hours of Friday following over 17-18 hours of questioning.

ED conducted search operations at Forest Minister Mallick’s residence and seven other locations on Thursday in connection with the alleged corruption in the ration distribution. He is the former food minister of the State.

The alleged scam pertains to reported irregularities in the public distribution system and in the distribution of food grains during the Covid lockdowns.

“I am a victim of a conspiracy,” Mallick told journalists as he was being taken by the ED team from his residence at Salt Lake in North 24 Parganas to ED office in Kolkata in Kolkata.

Mallick alleged that the conspiracy was hatched by the BJP and its leader Suvendu Adhikari.

The Minister, who was in charge of Bengal’s food and supplies department, is the second sitting minister to be arrested by the Enforcement Directorate. 

The central investigative agency had arrested former education minister Partha Chatterjee In June 2022 in the school job recruitment scam. Several MLAs of the ruling party as well as officials of the state education department are behind bars for their alleged involvement in this scam.

On Thursday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee threatened to file a police complaint if anything happened to Mallick during the questioning as he was unwell and had several medical ailments. Banerjee also termed the raids by the ED as “a dirty political game” by the BJP.

“Jyoti Priya Mallick is unwell. I will lodge an FIR against the ED and the BJP if anything happens to him during the raids,” she had said.

The case in which the minister was arrested dates back to 2020-21 when FIRs relating to irregularities in the public distribution system were registered at a few police stations.

After investigation by State police, the ED took up the matter. Last week the ED team had arrested businessman Bakibur Rehman in connection with the same case. The investigating agency found properties worth about ₹100 crore in the name of Rahman, who is said to be very close to Mallick.

In response to the arrest of the minister, the BJP said it was “expected” considering the pace of the investigation in the case.

BJP state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “The arrest was anticipated after the revelations made by one of the minister’s associates, who was apprehended a few days ago.”