Mamata Banerjee’s ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee were taken to the CBI office in Kolkata this morning and are likely to be arrested in the Narada bribery case. In a snowballing Bengal-Centre clash, the Chief Minister also arrived at the CBI office shortly afterwards.
Firhad Hakim, taken away by central security personnel from his home just after 9 am, alleged that he was being arrested without proper sanction. Central forces also went to the homes of Trinamool MLA Madan Mitra and former Trinamool leader Sovan Chatterjee and took them to the CBI office. Ms Chatterjee, Kolkata’s former mayor and senior minister, quit the Trinamool in 2019, joined the BJP but quit that party too this March.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had earlier sanctioned CBI investigations against the four.
The CBI will present a chargesheet against them before a special court and could seek custody. If not, the four may have to go to police lock-up until bail is granted.
The Speaker of the state assembly has to sanction the prosecution of MLAs. But in this case, the CBI did not ask the Bengal assembly Speaker for sanction but approached the Governor instead, in January. The Governor said he had the authority to grant sanction not because the four leaders were MLAs but because they were ministers sworn in by him in 2011.
All four were ministers in the previous Mamata Banerjee government when the Narada bribery tapes were shot in 2014. Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee were sworn in by the Governor as members of the new Mamata Banerjee cabinet after she won a third straight term in last month’s Bengal election.
The case involves a sting operation by the Narada news portal, in which Trinamool leaders were on camera accepting bribes.
A journalist from Delhi came to Kolkata, posed as a businessman planning to invest in Bengal, gave wads of cash to seven Trinamool MPs, four ministers, one MLA and a police officer as bribe and taped the entire operation.
The so-called “Narada tapes” were released just before the 2016 assembly elections in the state.
Mamata Banerjee’s party has questioned the timing of the action against Trinamool ministers just days after her landslide victory in polls that turned into a fierce prestige fight between her and the BJP.
Madan Mitra, a Trinamool MLA, was not named minister in the new government, and Sovan Chatterjee left Trinamool in 2019, joined the BJP but quit in March. He did not contest the recent polls.
The prosecution of Suvendu Adhikari, a former Trinamool Congress minister who is now a BJP MLA from Nandigram, has not been sanctioned yet by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.
Mr Adhikari was a Trinamool MP when the case first surfaced. In these elections, he beat Mamata Banerjee at Nandigram by less than 2,000 votes.
Of the seven Trinamool MPs named in the Narada case, six were from the Lok Sabha and Mukul Roy was from the Rajya Sabha. Mukul Roy is now with the BJP and has just been elected MLA. There has been no action against him. In the sting tapes, he was not actually seen taking cash.
Sultan Ahmed, another MP, has died. The CBI has asked for permission to prosecute Suvendu Adhikari, Sougata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Prasun Banerjee and Aparupa Poddar. The Lok Sabha Speaker has not granted sanction.
syndicated from NDTV