If you have evidence against me, make it public: Abhishek Banerjee before facing ED
Trinamool Congress (TMC) national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee on Sunday threw a challenge at the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saying if central probe agencies had any evidence against him in any case they should make it public.
“TMC will never bow before you (BJP). Do whatever you can. If the ED has any evidence against me, make it public. Why don’t you do that? If anybody can prove that I have accepted even ten paisa from anyone I will voluntarily walk to the gallows and hang myself,” the chief minister’s nephew said at the Kolkata airport before flying to Delhi where he had been summoned to the ED’s office on Monday for questioning in the coal smuggling case.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is also probing the case.
“I said at a public meeting in November that I am ready to face any probe. They have called me to Delhi although the case is relevant to Kolkata. They (BJP) lost the polls and are now using the agencies to carry out vengeance. Let any BJP national leader face me on a live television show. Let them choose the time and place. I will prove what they have done to the nation,” said the young TMC Lok Sabha member.
His wife Rujira Banerjee on Wednesday did not go to the ED’s office in Delhi where she was summoned in the same case. Citing the risk a mother of two infants faces while travelling during the Covid-19 pandemic, she wrote a letter to the agency saying it will be convenient for her if ED officers come to her Kolkata residence.
Focusing his attack on Suvendu Adhikari, ex-TMC minister and leader of the opposition in the Bengal assembly, Abhishek Banerjee on Sunday said, “Why is no action being taken against the leader of the opposition who was caught on camera accepting bundles of money?”
Banerjee was referring to the Narada sting operation that the CBI and the ED are probing. The ED was recently permitted by a special court in Kolkata to summon two ministers, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, TMC legislator Madan Mitra and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee for questioning in the Narada case. They were all arrested by the CBI on My 17 and released on bail after days of judicial custody.
A controversy erupted ahead of the 2016 assembly elections after the Narada News portal uploaded a series of videos purportedly showing several high-profile TMC leaders, including Adhikari, receiving money in exchange for favours to a fictitious company. Adhikari joined the BJP in December last year.
Adhikari, who, has been summoned for questioning by the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Monday in connection with the unnatural death of one of his security personnel in 2018, refused to react to Banerjee’s remark on the Narada probe.
“I do not want to say anything on this,” Adhikari said in Kolkata.
However, while addressing a BJP event at Tamluk in East Midnapore district, he referred to the CID summons and said, “You (BJP workers) need not worry. They cannot do anything to me. I am a bachelor. I have nothing to look back at except my aging parents.”
Adhikari, however, did not specify whether he will face CID officers on Monday.
Dismissing Banerjee’s allegation that the CBI and ED were being used by the BJP and saffron camp leaders were not being touched, the party’s Bengal vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar said, “The BJP is not conducting the probes. The agencies are doing their job following court orders. The CBI and ED decide who will be grilled and when.”
The ED has also summoned three Indian Police Service officers, Shyam Singh, Gyanwant Singh and S Selvamurugan to Delhi on September 8, 9 and 10 respectively.
Rujira Banerjee was questioned by the CBI in February in the coal smuggling case. The CBI team visited Abhishek Banerjee’s residence. In March, the CBI also questioned Rujira’s sister Maneka Gambhir and the latter’s husband Ankush Arora and father-in-law Pawan Arora.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reacted sharply in February when a CBI team visited the south Kolkata residence of her nephew to serve notice to his wife.
“A tiger cub is not scared of fighting cats and rats. Muscle flexing or threats of jail sentence cannot scare us. We have stood before guns in the past. I will not surrender as long as I am alive,” the chief minister said at a public event.
The CBI registered the coal smuggling case in November last year. 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.
Among the prime suspects is former TMC youth front general secretary and businessman Vinay Mishra who renounced his Indian citizenship in December and became a citizen of Vanuatu, a small island country in southwestern Pacific Ocean.
In July, the state CID started a probe into the death of Adhikari’s bodyguard Shubabrata Chakraborty who died of a gunshot injury in 2018. His family has now alleged foul play. The complaint has been filed by Suparna Kanjilal Chakraborty, the wife of the deceased.
A CID team visited Adhikari’s residence in July. They talked to members of the family, including Dibyendu Adhikari; the BJP leader’s bother who is also the TMC Lok Sabha member from the district’s Tamluk Lok Sabha seat. Their father, Sisir Adhikari, is the TMC Lok Sabha member from Contai. The TMC has sought Sisir Adhikari’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha as he shared the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the March-April polls.