The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) now wants to know who bought the paintings of Mamata Banerjee, reportedly sold for close to Rs. 2 crore at an exhibition of the chief minister’s works.
On Monday, even as Mamata was meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, the CBI, probing the Saradha chit fund scam, sent a notice to the Trinamool Congress seeking information on who had bought Mamata Banerjee’s paintings, details of the donations to the party and how much worth of advertisements had been carried in the party’s organ between 2010 and 2014. The notice, signed by Tathagata Bardhan, ABBC superintendent of police of the CBI, was sent to the party’s all-India general secretary and the information was sought by March 10.
“I’ve just taken over. So, I can’t comment on the matter,” remarked Subrata Bakshi, who was recently appointed as the all-India general secretary replacing Mukul Roy. And both education minister Partha Chatterjee and Trinamool Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien told HT that they had no idea of the CBI notice.
The CBI notice raises a question that was touched upon by Modi during the 2014 Lok Sabha poll campaign. During his visits to Bengal, Modi often wondered who had bought Mamata’s paintings for such a huge sum. He then had quoted a figure of Rs. 1.8 lakh and hinted that Saradha funds had been used to buy them.
“The CBI notice is pertinent,” remarked BJP state president Rahul Sinha. “We welcome the CBI step. But it shouldn’t procrastinate and allow the culprits to hide their spoils,” remarked Left leader Manoj Bhattacharya.
Over the past few years, Mamata has held four exhibitions of her paintings in the city. She has frequently claimed that she sells her creations to raise money to run her party.
The CBI has asked the party to provide details of who bought the paintings and the price of the canvases. The agency also asked the party to provide details of the advertisements that Jago Bangla (the Trinamool party organ) had got between 2010 and 2015.
Had he not been removed from his position, Mukul Roy would have had to go to the CBI office with the details. On Monday, he remarked cryptically, “I was there when the party was registered (in 1998). But surely, the party hasn’t evaporated with me.” (What he indicated was that somebody in the party should take responsibility and travel to the CBI office with the file).