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CBI picks up Trinamul ministers, MLA in connection with Narada scam

Minister Firhad Hakim claims he has been arrested, others include Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and former mayor Sovan Chatterjee; CM Banerjee sat on dharna inside CBI office, protest begins across Bengal as well as before Raj Bhavan

Kolkata: Within a fortnight of the election results in Bengal, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) picks up Two Trinamul Congress ministers, an MLA and a former mayor of Kolkata and brought them to its office on Monday morning in connection with the five-year-old Narada scam.

The Kolkata Mayor and the state transport and housing minister Firhad Hakim, panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, Kamarhati MLA Madan Mitra and former mayor Sovan Chatterjee were brought to Nizam Palace (CBI office in Kolkata) a little after 9 am for questioning in connection with the television sting in which several politicians and police officers were caught on camera allegedly accepting bribes from a fictitious company.

Soon after the Bengal election results, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was claiming to win more than 200 seats but gets drubbing, made its intention clear to not respect the mandate of the people of Bengal and will disturb Mamata Banerjee government. So soon after the results, when political violence took place and in which both sides—TMC and BJP cadres, as well as supporters, were killed BJP leaders circulated several fake news and images giving it a communal turn. Later Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar visited violence-affected families, even went to Assam which was again seen as interfering Mamata government during the Covid pandemic.

But, on Monday morning, the step CBI took, clearly indicates the vendetta politics of BJP during the pandemic.

Sources said West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had given the nod to prosecute the ministers. Charge sheets are scheduled to be filed against the four accused in the CBI court on Monday, they added, and that the four were brought in for questioning on Monday morning.

Before leaving his Chetla residence, which was surrounded by personnel of the central forces, Hakim said he had been arrested.

“CBI arrested me in the Narada sting operation. I have been arrested without any prior notice,” he said before boarding a CBI vehicle. “I will challenge this in court.”

People on social media are reacting sharply to the development and claimed that arresting Firhad Hakim, who is Kolkata Mayor too, will directly impact the much-needed vaccination drive in the state capital.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too has reached the CBI office.

“I came to meet them,” Mamata told newspersons upon reaching there, but sources close to her said she has vowed to stay put till such time the CBI released her party leaders.

However, the CBI is yet to issue a statement.

Many of the names that came up in connection with the scam are now prominent faces of the BJP in Bengal and elsewhere.

The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI inquiry into the scam in March 2017. Charge sheets were filed against 13 leaders and other functionaries of the Trinamul Congress.

The accused leaders also include Hemanta Biswa Sharma, who has joined BJP and now sworn-in Assam chief minister. Suvendhu Adhikari, who has also switched sides and joined the Saffron brigade, is now the leader of the opposition party (LOP) in the Bengal assembly. Mukul Roy, also now an MLA of BJP.

For these five years, the BJP was accused of using the Narada sting to further its political interests in the state, where it fought a high-pitched campaign during the recently concluded Assembly polls but fell far short of the majority mark.

Meanwhile, protests by TMC workers have started not only before the CBI office in Kolkata but before Raj Bhavan against Governor Jagdeep Dhankar as well as in many districts in Bengal. There are lockdown-like restrictions in the state since yesterday morning but after hearing the news of arresting of their party leaders, the caders are hitting the streets and reaching the CBI office and Raj Bhavan to register their anger against the action.

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