Millennium Post
Opinion

CBI probe aims to discredit TMC

With the Bharatiya Janata Party unable to exploit the erstwhile ‘Modi wave’, now it is the turn of the government agencies, especially the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to persecute and witch-hunt Trinamool Congress (TMC) and its chief Mamata Banerjee. The CBI, which has been investigating the Saradha scam and has arrested some prominent faces of the TMC, has of late resorted to maligning Mamata Banerjee and her government. As a result, at least two important issues have come to the public’s notice. First, the CBI sneakily issued a notice to the TMC general secretary Subrata Bakshi, seeking details of the party’s income and expenditure from 2010 to 2014. Interestingly, the notice has tried to investigate the entire gamut of TMC’s income sources, including the profit from sale of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s paintings. Nevertheless on its part the CBI refuses to attribute the notice as a “political move”.

The second point of contention is the lack of paramilitary presence during the municipal elections. Though the Mamata-led government had approached the Centre with such a request, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) refused to comply. Even the State Election Commissioner (SEC), Sushant Ranjan Upadhyaya had written to the Centre, requesting that paramilitary forces be deployed during election time. But even this request was not entertained by the MHA. The SEC consequently said, “I have received a letter from the state government, which said that the Centre had written to them about the unavailability of central forces because the forces have been deployed in other states and also at Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas”.

It is quite intriguing as to why the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government was reluctant to deploy central security forces at such a sensitive time. In fact TMC leaders nursed the view that this was done with the implicit intention of giving a bad name to the Mamata-led government; so as to later falsely accuse the TMC government of using muscle power and rigging the elections. 

Surprisingly on April 11, the state president of the BJP did a U-turn at a public meeting and revealed that the MHA had conveyed to him that it would deploy central forces soon. Strange indeed are the ways of the MHA! The message should ideally have come through official channels or at least directly to the state Election Commission. Instead the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh chose to send the message to his State party chief. This only reveals the level of animosity and hatred that the BJP has for Mamata Banerjee.

How should one interpret these actions of the BJP? In the case of seeking details of the accounts, it is clear that the CBI intended to coerce and humiliate TMC and Mamata, which is why it sent a notice to the party in the first place. In the normal course of things it should have requested the Supreme Court, which has been monitoring the case, to step in and issue a legal notice to the TMC for acquiring the desired inputs. It could have also approached the Income Tax or the Election Commission. What was quite interesting was the agency had sought a reply from the concerned departments in seven days. In a shrewd and underhanded political move of sorts, the CBI publicly wanted to tell the citizens of West Bengal “look here is a party that has survived and thrived on scam money”. The most interesting aspect was when the CBI called the general secretary over the phone and sought details of the account. It is beyond comprehension as to how could the CBI undertake this audacious anti-democratic move. Intriguingly the CBI took upon itself to punish the Trinamool on the eve of the municipal elections.

During this period Mukul Roy was the general secretary of the party. If the CBI could lay its hand on some fictitious operation, as is being made out, it should have summoned and arrested Roy as the agency did with three other prominent TMC leaders. But in Roy’s case, who is supposed to have become a friend of the BJP, it adopted a very lenient attitude. To be fair to the agency, in February it had sent the notice to Mukul Roy, who was then the general secretary of the party before his eventual removal from the post in February. Roy, a Rajya Sabha member, had asked the CBI to contact Bakshi. But since Roy was the general secretary during that period and he still continues to be in the TMC, the CBI should have also summoned him.

What is really astonishing is the fact that the CBI has instead arbitrarily summoned the new general secretary Subrata Bakshi. By asking Bakshi to hand over the accounts, the CBI was probably trying to shield Roy. It was a shrewd tactical move to deflect responsibility. Bakshi’s failure to comply with the CBI’s notice would have provided the agency with the opportunity to arrest him.

The CBI, however, failed miserably to give shape to its strategy. Well before deadline, the TMC submitted its complete statement of the accounts. Ironically, Mamata’s detractors interpreted this as an admission of defeat from the chief minister. She was, however, unfazed. Intriguingly even before the accounts were properly verified, information was leaked to the media that the party’s accounts did not appear to be complete. Mind you, this was only one hour after the TMC had submitted its accounts. How could the CBI leak such a confidential observation? The agency did not resort to this nature of action even when Lalu Prasad Yadav was identified as the prime accused in the fodder scam. Like the Saradha scam, a number of important and powerful politicians were also involved in the fodder scam. Obviously, in the fodder scam, the CBI should have asked the RJD to submit its statement of accounts. This is the worst sort of political duplicity on the CBI’s part.

If at all the CBI really intended to know the nature of the monetary transactions and trace whether Saradha money has been used by the Trinamool, it should have approached the income tax and the Election Commission. Mamata was correct when she said, “If you want my party’s account, go and take it from income tax. Instead of that you are sending me notice. Notices will pile up and we will send them back to you. You have come to power and are sending me notices. Tomorrow you will not be in power. The people will send you notice”. Notwithstanding her outburst, she acted in a calm and collected manner and her party submitted documents to the CBI - three days after the agency re-sent a notice to the party seeking details of the its accounts. Mamata did not provide the space the CBI was looking for.

Based on the Trinamool’s reply, the CBI plans to summon Mamata and a couple of senior leaders. The CBI also desires to interrogate the auditors of the ruling party. One development, which is quite noticeable, is that the CBI targeted the organisation only after Mamata marginalised the party’s erstwhile number two, Mukul Roy, on the suspicion that he was hobnobbing with the BJP. 

Notwithstanding its sustained efforts, the fact of the matter is that the CBI has failed to malign the image of Mamata. The electorate has only one question: if they had clinching evidence against Mamata then why are they not arresting her? Why is the CBI indulging in a guerilla war? Though a section of the powerful media has launched a campaign against her, people by and large are reluctant to subscribe to what the CBI or her opponents have to say. The non-Bengali voters who at one stage were alleged to have supposedly shifted their allegiance to BJP seem to be back with her. The mood in the TMC about its poll prospects is quite upbeat. 
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