Two Kolkata Police personnel were suspended on Monday for allegedly trying to bribe BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha, prompting the saffron party to accuse the Trinamool Congress of trying to trap opponents a week before assembly polls.
Subhasish Raychaudhuri – an 52-year-old assistant sub inspector and Aminur Rahaman , a 25-year-old constable with Kolkata Police’s special branch – allegedly offered ‘a huge amount’ to Sinha for buying access across the India-Bangladesh border to smuggle cattle.
Sinha made them wait and informed officers of the Jorasanko police station. Policemen took them away in a few minutes and have started departmental proceedings against the duo.
“This was an attempt by the ruling Trinamool Congress to conduct a sting operation like Narada. The party that controls the police is behind this conspiracy. Stung by Narada, Trinamool leaders are stooping to this level,” said Sinha.
The dramatic incident is likely to further embarrass the Trinamool Congress that is battling a sting operation by website Naradanews.com that purportedly showed 13 party leaders accept cash bribes to lobby for a fictitious company.
Opposition parties say the allegations have dented the clean image claimed by chief minister Mamata Banerjee and are set to make it a major poll issue.
Banerjee also holds the police portfolio.
“It has to be proved that the chief minister is not behind the incident,” Sinha said and demanded a CBI inquiry.
The BJP said it informed the election commission about the incident. “They offered me lots of money to ensure smooth smuggling of cows. I held them by their collars and slapped them,” Sinha added.
Police officers are interrogating the duo and have ordered a probe into the incident.
“It appears they went to further their personal objectives. We have suspended both. The complaint had no grounds for cognisable offence and therefore, we did not start any criminal proceedings,” said Supratim Sarkar, joint commissioner of police, headquarters.
“They will get exemplary punishment, including, sacking, if that probe finds them guilty.”
The Trinamool is locked into a poll battle with an informal Left-Congress alliance and the BJP for the 294-member assembly.
“During the present process of elections, it clearly indicates the above incident is part of a conspiracy to malign Rahul Sinha and also the state BJP,” state vice-president Jaiprakash Majumdar said.
The attempt comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised the Trinamool for the multiple corruption allegations, ranging from the Narada scandal to the multi-crore Saradha scam.
“How can they claim for everything good and try to heap blame for everything deplorable?” said Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee.
The special branch of Kolkata police is expected to gather confidential information regarding various issues of the state, apart from VVIP movement and security. However, ruling parties are known to use them to gather information about political opponents and dissenters.
Cattle smuggling is one of the most politically volatile problems in West Bengal. According to estimates, about 1.7-1.8 million cattle are smuggled through the India-Bangladesh border every year, especially in the North 24 Parganas, Nadia and Murshidabad districts.
Increased vigil by the Border Security Force has led to a sharp dip in the incidents of smuggling. BJP and all non-political saffron outfits campaign against cattle smuggling and have formed vigilante groups to check the movement of trucks along border areas.