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West Bengal: CBI arrests ministers in Narada case, CM protests

Our Bureau Kolkata | Updated on May 17, 2021

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee leaves the CBI office following the arrest of TMC ministers and MLAs in a scam case, in Kolkata.   -  PTI

The Trinamool has accused that it was political vendetta

High drama followed the arrest of West Bengal Ministers and Trinamool Congress leaders by the CBI on Monday in connection with the Narada bribery case. Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee staged a sit-in for over six hours at the CBI’s Kolkata office.

Ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, senior TMC leader Madan Mitra and former city mayor Sovan Chatterjee were arrested by the CBI in connection with the Narada graft tapes. Late in the evening, all four were granted bail by a lower court.

The arrests come days after the ministers were sworn-in, rekindling the Centre versus State feud. Hakim currently the transport minister is Mamata Banerjee’s right hand man; and Mukherjee, in-charge of the Panchayat and rural welfare department, is the senior-most minster in the Cabinet. Mitra is a staunch Banerjee loyalist.

Chatterjee, once a Banerjee confidante, switched camps to the BJP but quit over differences.

Early morning arrest

Banerjee commented, “the Court will decide,” while leaving the central investigating agency’s office. She was there till the four accused were presented before the court.

The CBI, accompanied by Central forces, picked up the two ministers — Mukherjee and Hakim — from their residence in South Kolkata early morning. They were taken to the CBI office where they were given the arrest memos. The same pattern was followed for Mitra, a former minister of the State.

“I am being arrested in connection with the Narada sting tapes. I will fight it in court,” Hakim said while he was on way to CBI office.

Sources say the Central investigating agency filed a chargesheet in respect to the Narada graft case where the four have been named as the accused.

The Narada sting operation, carried out by a portal, Narada News, purportedly showed several Trinamool Congress MPs, MLAs, Ministers and the party’s top-brass taking cash bribes. While the sting operation was allegedly carried out in 2014, it was broadcast in 2016.

Days back West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar sanctioned the prosecution of Hakim, Mukherjee, Mitra and Chatterjee in the graft case. The CBI had made a request to the West Bengal Governor and provided all the documentation pertinent to the case.

High drama

The arrests sparked protests across the State. Early in the morning Hakim’s arrest led to angry protests by his supporters as they tried to block CBI officials. Central forces were deployed to control the crowd as the minister was taken to the CBI office.

Later in the day, Trinamool Congress supporters demonstrated near the CBI office in Kolkata. Some tried to break barricades and enter the complex. Elsewhere in the State tyres and effigies of PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister, Amit Shah, were burnt.

Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar alleged total lawlessness and anarchy and warned of “repercussions” as Trinamool supporters turned violent in some places.

‘Political vendetta’

The Trinamool has accused that it was political vendetta while charging that two other accused — Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari who switched camps to the BJP — do not feature in chargesheet.

“Utter violation of democratic norms and federalist polity by Modi-Shah controlled CBI, arresting two Bengal minister without Assembly Speaker’s permission as per protocol. Political vendetta after outright rejection by people of Bengal. Reveals neo-fascist mindset of BJP-Sangh Parivar,” Finance Minister, Amit Mitra tweeted.

Reacting to the arrests, BJP spokesperson, Shamik Bhattacharjee, said: “Investigations have been going on for some time and the law has taken its course.”

Published on May 17, 2021

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