Tracking journey of Anubrata Mondal arrested in cattle smuggling case

Updated on Aug 12, 2022 04:45 AM IST

For Mondal, the downfall came months after he became the TMC’s only district-level leader to make it to the party’s national working committee without ever contesting an election. TMC insiders said he was rewarded for his loyalty to chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Kolkata, Aug 08 (ANI): Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Anubrata Mondal arrives at SSKM Hospital for a health check-up as he informed the CBI that he is unable to appear for interrogation in connection with the cattle smuggling case, in Kolkata on Monday. (ANI Photo) (Saikat Paul)
Kolkata, Aug 08 (ANI): Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Anubrata Mondal arrives at SSKM Hospital for a health check-up as he informed the CBI that he is unable to appear for interrogation in connection with the cattle smuggling case, in Kolkata on Monday. (ANI Photo) (Saikat Paul)
By, Kolkata

In West Bengal’s Birbhum district — where incidents of political killings and allegations of corruption against the Trinamool Congress (TMC) made headlines since 2011, when it dislodged the Left Front government — the burly 62-year-old Anubrata Mondal hardly appeared the strongman he was made out to be when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested him on Thursday in the cattle scam case.

For Mondal, the downfall came months after he became the TMC’s only district-level leader to make it to the party’s national working committee without ever contesting an election. TMC insiders said he was rewarded for his loyalty to chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

“Didi (Mamata Banerjee) offered me the opportunity to be an MLA or MP so many times. All I want is to work for the party,” Mondal recently told reporters.

A trusted aide of Banerjee, who addressed him by his nickname Kesto, Mondal saw the trouble coming, said TMC leaders in Birbhum. CBI had summoned Mondal 10 times since 2021, but he kept making excuses citing his health. He faced CBI officials briefly in May, only to tell them that he had an appointment with doctors at the state-run SSKM hospital in Kolkata where he was admitted for a month at a cabin reserved for VIPs.

Things changed on August 8 when the doctors at SSKM refused to admit him as he tried to evade the ninth summon for appearance before CBI following raids at the residence of Tulu Mondal, a businessman in Birbhum.

“He is fit enough. We do not see any reason to get him admitted,” Dr Saroj Mondal, a heart specialist at SSKM, told reporters after the TMC leader left the premises and headed for his home in Birbhum’s Bolpur town.

“Born into a poor farmer’s family, Mondal ran a small grocery shop before joining the Congress in his youth,” a TMC leader from the district said, requesting anonymity. “He quit the Congress in 1998, and headed the TMC’s Birbhum district unit since the party’s inception the same year.”

TMC leaders said that after helping the party win one election after another amid accusations of threatening the Opposition, Mondal drew the attention of the national media for all wrong reasons.

During the 2021 assembly elections, the Election Commission of India (ECI) passed an order saying Mondal should be kept under surveillance by an executive magistrate and central armed police forces on the day of polling in Birbhum.

During the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections and 2016 assembly polls, Mondal was probably the only leader in the state who was kept under round-the-clock surveillance.

“This is a routine for the EC. It kept me under watch in all recent polls. However, confining me will not affect the poll results. The TMC will win all 11 seats in Birbhum and at least 220 of the state’s 294 constituencies,” Mondal had said after the order was passed.

The results were not far from his projection: the TMC lost only one seat to the BJP in Birbhum, while winning 215 seats in the state.

The ECI’s action came a day after CBI summoned Mondal for questioning in the cow smuggling case. Reacting to the CBI summon, TMC chief Banerjee alleged that Mondal was being targeted to put her party in trouble in the district. “Why should Kesto meet CBI when elections are on? They (BJP) are using the CBI,” Banerjee had said.

Things took a new turn for Mondal on August 8 when CBI filed its third charge sheet in the cattle smuggling case at the Asansol court and named Sehgal Hossain, a West Bengal police constable deployed by the government as bodyguard for Mondal.

Hossain, who was arrested by CBI on June 10, has been accused of accepting money from several people on Mondal’s behalf. The CBI’s 41-page supplementary charge sheet also mentioned that 59 properties and businesses — including petrol pumps, stone crushing units, brick kilns and four apartments, two of which in Kolkata — are registered in the names of members of Hossain’s family.

CBI also gave the court records of phone calls the other prime suspects made to Hossain and claimed it was Mondal who carried out the conversations.

The ruling party, however, changed its stance after Mondal’s arrest.

“Our party follows a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to corruption. We are not defending anyone but the agencies should treat all suspects equally,” said TMC leader and state’s minister Chandrima Bhattacharya.

“No move has been made against BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari in the Saradha and Narada cases although he is an accused.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    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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