A mention of Trinamool Congress’ heir-apparent and Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee six times in an FIR in the Narada sting video case has sent jitters down the spine of West Bengal’s ruling party.
The name appears as “Abhisek,” “Abhisek Banerjee” and “Abhisek Bandopadhyay” in different pages of the document but never as a suspect or, even as an MP.
But Trinamool leaders in touch with legal experts are fearful that the Central Bureau of Investigation probe may eventually affect not just the 12 MPs, MLAs and ministers named in the document filed on March 16, but hurt other senior leaders.
Their fears have been fuelled by the CBI’s decision to keep the ambit of the probe beyond what has been seen in the edited videos released by Mathew Samuel, head of Narada News. After naming the 13 accused on page 2 and 3 of the FIR, the 14th entry mentions “other unknown persons”.
Abhishek Banerjee is the nephew of chief minister and party supremo Mamata Banerjee and is the youngest member of the Lok Sabha from Diamond Harbour. Currently the youth wing president, Abhishek is widely seen as being groomed to take over from the 62-year-old CM.
Photos of the Narada FIR that contain Banerjee’s name
The Narada sting videos were released ahead of the 2016 assembly elections and purportedly showed several senior leaders taking bribes. Last month, the Calcutta high court ordered a CBI probe into the charges.
Trinamool leaders named in the FIR are Rajya Sabha MP Mukul Roy, Lok Sabha MPs Saugata Roy, Aparupa Poddar, Sultan Ahmed, Prasun Banerjee and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, ministers Firhad Hakim, Suvendu Adhikari, Sovan Chatterjee (also the Kolkata mayor) and Subrata Mukherjee. Former minister Madan Mitra, MLA Iqbal Ahmed and IPS officer Saiyaad Mustafa Hussain Mirza have also been named as accused.
On page 7, the FIR elaborates charges against Iqbal Ahmed and mentions a movie file showing 10 different dates.
“Iqbal Ahmed was also shown to have assured Santosh (Samuel’s fake identity during the operation) to arrange a meeting for him with Abhisek,” says one part of the document.
“He was also heard to be making a call to Abhisek for a meeting in this regard,” says another paragraph.
“In another file, he was shown to have assured the sting operator to arrange a meeting for him with Sudip Bandopadhyay and Abhisek Banerjee,” says a portion on page 7.
On page 8, the charges against Kolkata mayor Sovon Chatterjee says:
1) “He was shown to have received Rs 4 lakh in cash from the sting operator, who promised to pay a further amount of Rs 1 lakh to him the next day (April 17, 2014).
2) “He was also shown to have assured the sting operator that he would arrange a meeting for him with Abhisek Bandopadhyay, at least once, after the election.”
The FIR says that preliminary inquiry conducted by CBI Anti-Corruption Branch, Kolkata, has “revealed prima facie material” showing that the suspects “had either accepted or agreed to accept illegal gratification” from Mathew Samuel for showing favour to him / his firm (Impex Consultancy, the firm Samuel named before Trinamool leaders while conducting the sting operation).
The next sentence adds: “The inquiry also revealed that several other unknown persons had also conspired with the accused persons in the commission of the alleged offences.”
Top Trinamool leaders met two days ago but couldn’t decide on one course of action. Some leaders felt the party should move court challenging the investigation but others advised a wait-and-watch strategy, sources said.