TMC will not last till 2026, says ex-Calcutta HC judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay | Kolkata - Hindustan Times

TMC will not last till 2026, says ex-Calcutta HC judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay

Mar 05, 2024 08:43 PM IST

Abhijit Gangopadhyay, shortly after resigning from the judiciary, announced that he would be joining the Bharatiya Janata Party tentatively on March 7

The Trinamool Congress stands for corruption and it will not last till the 2026 state polls, Calcutta high court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay said on Tuesday afternoon shortly after resigning from the judiciary and announcing that he would be joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tentatively on March 7.

Abhijit Gangopadhyay. (Hindustan Times)
Abhijit Gangopadhyay. (Hindustan Times)

“I am joining the BJP because it is the only national party. Prime Minister Modi is a good man. He is very hard working. He is trying to do something for the country,” the former judge said at a press conference in the high court premises.

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“The BJP will welcome him. He has proved that the BJP is the only platform in Bengal from where corruption can be fought,” the party’s state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said while most other senior leaders maintained silence.

Gangopadhyay sent his resignation directly to the President of India on Tuesday morning. It came into effect immediately under Article 217 (1) (a) of the Constitution.

“No cooling off period is applicable in this case,” he told reporters.

Although several Calcutta high court judges have resigned before retirement since Independence, none joined politics in this manner, senior advocates said.

Arguing that personal attacks by TMC leaders prompted him to quit and join politics, Gangopadhyay said: “I had very little time to decide to join. I approached the BJP and the BJP approached me over the last seven days. That’s why I was on leave during this period. I stopped adjudicating so that nobody can raise an allegation.”

Gangopadhyay, who announced his plans on Sunday without naming the BJP, refused to comment on whether Union minister Amit Shah figured among the BJP leaders he had been interacting with.

Gangopadhyay’s statement prompted TMC leaders to allege that irrespective of whether he was on leave for a week, his admission was the proof of a sitting judge’s connection with the BJP, something they had been pointing at since 2021 following back-to-back orders he passed in alleged corruption cases in which several ruling party leaders have been arrested.

“His statement, ‘I approached the BJP and BJP approached me,’ is an extremely interesting point. You have to read between the lines. He specified that he was in touch with the BJP when he was hearing cases. Let common people draw their own conclusion,” TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee said at a political event.

“Probably it was a slip of tongue, but he revealed the truth,” Banerjee quipped.

Stating that the BJP’s national election committee will decide whether he should be fielded in the coming Lok Sabha polls, Gangopadhyay trained his guns at the TMC, calling the party’s founder and chief minister Mamata Banerjee “nothing but another political personality” and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee – whom he did not name even once - “a tin soldier.”

“Why should I take his name? His name itself is a slang word,” Gangopadhyay said.

BJP leaders, too, do not take Abhishek’s name and usually refer to him as “Bhaipo” (nephew in Bengali).

“I will show how the tin soldier’s army of goons can be defeated. He can be defeated by millions of votes at Diamond Harbour,” Gangopadhyay said, referring to Abhishek Banerjee’s Lok Sabha constituency.

“It was interesting to see that like all BJP leaders, the former judge too did not take my name. This is a democratic country, and anybody can take part in any election from anywhere,” the TMC MP said.

“The TMC is crumbling from within. It has already reached the state where the CPI(M) stood in 2009,” the former judge said, referring to the last years of the Left Front’s 34-year-long regime that ended in 2011.

“One or two more arrests and the TMC will be obliterated,” he said, indirectly referring to federal agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED). During his tenure as judge, Gangopadhyay ordered federal agency probes in around 14 cases.

Gangopadhyay, who has always projected himself as a crusader against corruption, batted for the BJP when he was asked what made him so sure that the party does not have corrupt leaders.

“I do not know whether the BJP is a corruption-free party, but it maintains a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption. My job will be to fight corruption,” he said.

Surprising everyone, the former judge said the 2014 Narada sting operation - which the CBI and ED are probing since 2016 on the orders of the Supreme Court - was “staged by the tin soldier to gain entry into politics.”

“The entire sting operation was staged. TMC leaders (purportedly seen in the videos accepting money) are victims of a conspiracy,” he said.

Between Feb and April 2014, a Narada News journalist posing as a businessman conducted sting operation on a host of senior TMC leaders and ministers by offering them money ranging between 4 and 5 lakhs. The videos were uploaded on the Narada News website on the eve of the 2016 Bengal assembly polls, triggering a row.

Among those purportedly seen in the videos are the then TMC Rajya Sabha MP Mukul Roy, who joined the BJP in 2017, and the then Bengal cabinet minister Suvendu Adhikari, who joined the BJP before the 2021 assembly polls.

Adhikari, who is now leader of the opposition in the Bengal legislative assembly, was named as a suspect in a separate complaint ED filed months before he joined the BJP. He was also named in the CBI’s first information report (FIR) in 2017.

Although the BJP was the first opposition party to call a press conference where the videos were played before the media in 2016, the party has never mentioned the case in recent years. The TMC, on the other hand, has questioned why CBI and ED never summoned Roy and Adhikari although several of its leaders were arrested.

Asked why he chose the BJP over the Left parties and the Congress, Gangopadhyay said: “The Congress is a family’s zamindari (estate). There are many good leaders, such as Jairam Ramesh, who is more educated than Rahul Gandhi, who never got any important post.”

“And I couldn’t have joined the CPI(M) because their leaders are atheists, or at least claim to be so in public, whereas I believe in God,” he added.

Eminent lawyer and CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, who the former judge often referred to as his “teacher” in the legal profession, said: “Many judges of the high court resigned before retirement after Independence, but this is a unique case.”

Bhattacharya said: “I have to respect a person’s decision although I do not agree. Joining the BJP may put him into trouble. He has created the image of a person who follows the Constitution and exposes corruption in the administration. The BJP itself is a corrupt party. He will feel frustrated in a few days.”

Sixty-two-year-old Gangopadhay, who joined the high court as an additional judge in 2018 and was made a permanent judge in July 2020, was scheduled to retire in July.

Asked whether he quit five months earlier to contest the Lok Saba polls, he said, “That is for the BJP to decide. I left because TMC leaders literally forced me to take the call.”

Asked what he felt about the controversy over electoral bonds, Gangopadhyay said: “Although there was no corruption, the process of issuing electoral bonds lacked transparency. The Supreme Court has commented on this.”

There was no scam in India purchasing Rafale fighter aircrafts from France, he commented.

“Has any corruption been established in the Bofors deal? The same goes for Rafale,” he said.

Among the important cases that the former judge heard is the bribe-for-job scam.

In May 2022, he ordered the CBI to probe the appointment of non-teaching staff (Group C and D) and teaching staff by the West Bengal School Service Commission and West Bengal Board of Secondary Education between 2014 and 2021. The appointees allegedly paid bribes in the range of 5-15 lakh to get jobs after failing the selection tests.

In April 2023, the judge ordered CBI to probe a suspected recruitment scam in civic bodies across Bengal. Both CBI and ED have told the Supreme Court that the two scams are related.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, his wife and his parents are all suspects in the school recruitment scam.

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    Tanmay Chatterjee has spent more than three decades covering regional and national politics, internal security, intelligence, defence and corruption. He also plans and edits special features on subjects ranging from elections to festivals.

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