Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officers arrested on Tuesday Trinamool Congress parliamentarian Sudip Bandyopadhyay for his alleged involvement in the Rose Valley chit fund scam, sparking angry protests from the ruling party supporters who laid siege to the BJP office in Kolkata.
Bandyopadhyay’s arrest came just four days after the central agency picked up Trinamool MP Tapas Paul on similar charges. The CBI action will further embarrass the ruling party that saw many of its leaders getting embroiled in the Saradha scam.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee reacted to Bandyopadhyay’s arrest by threatening to arrest BJP leaders in Bengal. “I just can’t believe Sudip Bandyopadhyay has been arrested. He is a senior leader of our party in the Parliament!” she said.
A member of Banerjee’s core team, 64-year-old Bandyopadhyay is the chief whip of the Trinamool Congress in the Lok Sabha. Elected to the house from Kolkata North constituency, he participates in debates on every issue of importance – from GST to demonetisation – both in Parliament and outside it.
As the news spread, Trinamool activists took to the streets and allegedly attacked the BJP office with stones, and vandalised cars parked outside.
The BJP said 15 of its activists were injured; a few bled from the head as they spoke to the media. Later at night, Rapid Action Force personnel were deployed outside the office in north Kolkata.
“Neither the state government nor the Centre sent these security personnel. My security was increased by the CRPF, because I get ‘Y’ category security cover,” said BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh told HT that a ward office in the city was also demolished by supporters of the ruling party.
“As the police won’t protect us, we may have to do it ourselves,” he said, adding the attack on the BJP office has been brought to the notice of governor KN Tripathi and the Union home ministry.
Protests by Trinamool workers spread to other districts too. In West Midnapore, party supporters staged a blockade on the NH-6 on Tuesday evening.
Politics heats up
The Rose Valley chit fund scam, involving funds of over Rs 15,000 crore, is easily the largest in the state – dwarfing even the Rs 2,500-crore Saradha scam. Rose Valley chairman Gautam Kundu has been languishing in jail since March 23, 2015.
Bandyopadhyay was interrogated for over three hours at the CGO complex in Salt Lake before being taken into custody. He was asked a number of questions, including the identity of the person who introduced him to Kundu; the benefits (foreign trips, vehicles and jobs for relatives) he allegedly received from the group; and whether he promoted or campaigned for the group. Sources said the Trinamool MP denied receiving any kickbacks – in money or in kind – from Kundu.
“This is pure political vendetta. There will be a mass agitation against this arrest. If Tapas Paul and Sudip Bandyopadhyay are arrested, why can’t the same be done to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah?” asked a visibly angry Banerjee.
TMC in huddle
The chief minister also called an emergency meeting of party MPs to formulate a response to the CBI action. She said party supporters would stage protests against the arrest of Paul and Bandyopadhyay in Bengal as well as other parts of the country – including the national capital.
Trinamool Congress MPs and state ministers visited the CBI regional office to express “solidarity” with Bandyopadhyay. “We conveyed our solidarity,” West Bengal Minister Firhad Hakim said.
Reactions pour in
Neither the BJP nor the Left parties tried to hide their glee over the development. “Tapas Paul was only the 12th man of the team. This time, an opener has been clean bowled. There are many other players who will follow them to jail,” quipped BJP’s Dilip Ghosh.
BJP national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh said: “Violence has no place in a democracy. It is unfortunate that in Bengal, violence has become a norm since the state government encourages acts of violence.”
CPI(M) MP Md Salim couldn’t help but note the sudden fall in Bandyopadhyay’s fortunes. “He walked in like a hero on Tuesday morning, but was arrested like a criminal a few hours later,” he remarked.
However, Bandyopadhyay’s wife Naina – an MLA herself – offered no comment to the media. “The party will say whatever it has to,” she said.
The Congress rallied behind the Trinamool Congress, denouncing Bandyopadhyay’s arrest.
“The PM is indulging in politics of vendetta. He has been targeting Mamata Banerjee from the day she addressed a press conference with Rahul Gandhi,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, wondering why central minister Babul Supriyo was not arrested even though he was named in the scam.
Trinamool leaders said Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel, also telephoned Banerjee to express solidarity.
(With agency inputs)