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‘Frame BJP worker if can’t control her’: TMC leader’s speech triggers row

Bengal agriculture minister Ashish Banerjee and TMC leader Rana Singha were reportedly present when Anubrata Mondal is accused to have made the controversial statement.

india Updated: Sep 03, 2018 18:57 IST
Koushik Dutta
Koushik Dutta
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
TMC,Trinamool Congress,Anubhrata Mondal
Anubrata Mondal (right) of Trinamool Congress was allegedly caught on camera telling TMC leaders to get a BJP worker arrested. (Subhendu Ghosh/HT File Photo)

The ruling Trinamool Congress has found itself in the middle of a huge controversy after a video emerged, that the opposition alleges, shows a ruling party leader instructing his party workers to frame a BJP worker for possessing cannabis, or ganja.

Anubrata Mondal, the Trinamool’s Birbhum district president, is also seen telling party workers at a meeting on Sunday to get the district police chief on the line so that he can pass on the instructions.

“What is the name of the woman? She is a BJP worker. She has an outlet of cloth. Get her arrested in a ganja case,” Mondal is seen to have said.

When a party worker said she could be kept under check, Mondal said, “Tell me clearly whether you can control her. If you cannot, get her arrested.”

The anti-narcotics law stipulates a minimum jail term of six months for possessing up to 1 kg of cannabis. Conviction for possession of a larger quantity could lead to prison term extending up to 20 years.

Mondal was speaking at a district-level party meeting 170 km from state capital Kolkata. Apart from bring the Birbhum district president of Trinamool, he is also the party’s observer in the three assembly constituencies of Mangalkot, Ausgram and Ketugram in neighbouring East Burdwan district.

Bengal agriculture minister Ashish Banerjee, who is also the legislator from Rampurhat in Birbhum district and vice-president of district TMC, Rana Singha, were present when Mondal is accused to have made the controversial statement.

HT has accessed the widely-circulated video but cannot independently verify its authenticity.

The BJP worker wasn’t the only one on Mondal’s radar at this meeting.

Mondal, who is known as Kesto-da among his supporters, ordered that a young man, recently thrown out of the party recently, should also be falsely implicated on similar grounds.

The BJP has been hammering the ruling Trinamool Congress over the video and demands Mondal’s arrest.

Trinamool Congress leaders have not commented on the video. Education minister and party secretary general Partha Chatterjee said he could not comment unless he watches the video clip. Bengal panchayat minister Subrata Mukerjee, too, refused comment while agriculture minister Asish Banerjee did not take phone calls.

Mondal called the video “bogus”.

“It’s bogus. I don’t know who spread this video,” said Mondal on Monday, insisting that he didn’t even know the woman named in the video.

A few days ago, Ujjwal Chatterjee, one of our party leaders in Ausgram in East Burdwan was killed. “Can’t I ask the police to nab the culprit. And can’t the murderer sell ganja?” Mondal retorted.

Meanwhile, a woman who identified herself as the one Mondal was referring to the video expressed fear for her life.

Sangita Chakraborty, who was earlier with the Trinamool Congress and later switched to the BJP, said, “I have lodged a complaint at Aushgram police station against Anubrata Mondal and also approached the National Human Rights Commission. Earlier, I was attacked and my legs were broken. After hearing him in the video clip, I am feeling insecure. If something untoward happens to me or my family members, he will be responsible,” she said.

This isn’t the first time that the Birbhum district Trinamool chief has been at the centre of a controversy.

In July 2013, he told his supporters at a public meeting in Birbhum to hurl bombs at the police and burn down houses of rebel Trinamool Congress candidates in panchayat elections. At other times, he has asked people “not to get so worked up” about bombs being used in state elections, describing them as part of Bengal’s “heritage and culture”.

Right ahead of the 2016 assembly election in the district, the election commission had taken note of the Trinamool leader and put the Birbhum strongman under 24-hour surveillance to keep peace.

BJP general secretary Rahul Sinha has demanded Mondal’s arrest.

“The video is a clear proof how the ruling party has turned the police into a subservient organ of the party,” said Rahul Sinha.

“These are Trinamool ratnas (gems),” said Sujan Chakraborty, CPI (M) central committee member and leader of Left parties in the state assembly.

“Mondal is pursuing the goal of an opposition-free state set by the chief minister herself,” said Congress legislator Manoj Chakraborty.

In the recently concluded rural elections, TMC won all the 42 district council seats in Birbhum district without any contest. Mondal was believed to have masterminded the plan.

First Published: Sep 03, 2018 16:53 IST