File photo: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (PTI)
File photo: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (PTI)

'Mamata Banerjee’s white saree, slippers a façade': MP minister Narottam Mishra

  • The CBI on Monday questioned Banerjee’s nephew and TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee's sister-in-law in a coal scam case.
By Tanmay Chatterjee, Kolkata
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2021 08:29 PM IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday questioned Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s integrity and image for the first time in the run-up to the crucial assembly polls as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) questioned her nephew and Trinamool Congress (TMC) Lok Sabha MP Abhishek Banerjee’s sister-in-law. The agency is all geared up to pay a visit to this wife in connection with the multi-crore coal scam.

“The masses will scare her (Banerjee) now for her involvement in the coal scam. Everything is getting exposed. She used to put up a façade with her Hawaii slippers, white saree, plain living and high thinking. Everything is peeling off like the skins of an onion,” said Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra who is touring the eastern state to boost the ongoing campaign. Bengal polls will be held in March-April.

The political temperature in Bengal is on the rise since Sunday afternoon when the CBI sent a team to Abhishek Banerjee’s south Kolkata residence and left a notice seeking time to question his wife Rujira Banerjee nee Naroola as a witness under Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC). On Monday afternoon, five CBI officers questioned her sister, Menka Gambhir, for three hours in her apartment at a posh south Kolkata residential complex.

Agency officials said on condition of anonymity that they are probing overseas bank transactions. The family of Rujira Banerjee is based in Thailand.

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Mishra made the comments before the media while reacting to Mamata Banerjee’s speech at a cultural event held in Kolkata on the occasion of International Mother Language Day on Sunday.

“Threats of jail sentence cannot scare us. We have stood before guns in the past. We won’t be scared of fighting rats. I will not surrender as long as I am alive. You cannot break our spine. A tiger cub is not scared of cats and rats,” Banerjee had said.

“In a democracy, it is the people who decide who is a tiger and who is a rat. If their conscience is clear why are their associates on the run? Why don’t they come clean?” Mishra said on Monday.

The BJP leader from MP was indirectly referring to the CBI naming Vinay Mishra, a businessman and general secretary of the youth front of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), of which Abhishek Banerjee is the president, as one of the prime suspects in the coal smuggling scam along with Anup Majhi alias Lala, a businessman whose offices have been raided and sealed. Both have been declared absconders by the CBI.

BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari alleged in a tweet on Sunday that Gambhir "and related parties" were "favoured" by the government while placing orders for bicycles that are given free to school students. To counter the TMC's 'Duare Sarkar' (government at the doorstep) outreach programme, the BJP started a hashtag campaign, naming it 'Duare CBI' (CBI at the doorstep).

It is alleged that illegally mined coal, worth several thousand crores of rupees, have been sold in the black market over several years by a racket operating in the western parts of West Bengal where the Eastern Coalfields Limited runs several mines. The sale proceeds were allegedly routed through numerous shell companies that the CBI, the Income Tax department and the Enforcement Directorate are probing.

The TMC launched a counter-attack on the MP home minister and called him “communal” and “tainted.”

No state or central leader of the BJP earlier attacked the Bengal chief minister’s integrity although they did not spare her nephew.

While attending a media conclave in Kolkata last week Union home minister Amit Shah said, “I do not think Mamata Banerjee is an overhyped leader. She is a big leader and has been the chief minister twice. But she has failed and people have realized that. I do not nullify her political ideology.”

TMC Lok Sabha member and party spokesperson Saugata Roy made a counter-attack on Mishra.

“I condemn Mishra with all the vehemence in my command. He is a communal leader from MP. He engineered defections from the Congress. Nobody knows his name in Bengal. He is a tainted BJP leader,” said Roy.

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