Hitting out at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for saying that she would accept a BJP government with Arun Jaitley, Rajanth Singh or LK Advani at its head, Congress leader Abdul Mannan on Sunday said that her comments prove “that in the past she was with the BJP, continues to be with the BJP and will be with the BJP in the future”.
He went on to say that both Modi and Mamata were “giants of corruption” and had in the past benefitted from various industrialists and alleged that the two had, in the past, “conspired behind closed doors” to ensure that the investigation into the Sharada scam and Rose Valley case would be slowed down.
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Stopping short of demanding that Mamata Banerjee be arrested, he alleged, “The people of Bengal understand politics. They know and understand everything. In the midst of violence, elections can yield a number of results. But they can’t change what people feel. If Narendra Modi, once again, saves Mamata Banerjee once again, the people of Bengal will not tolerate this.”
Mannan’s statement stands in direct opposition to the Congress high command’s position in the matter. After Sudip Bandyopadhyay was arrested by the CBI, Mamata Banerjee had received two phone calls from Congress leader Ahmed Patel – firstly to enquire about the situation and then to assure them that the Congress is with Trinamool Congress. In response, the Congress accused Modi of vendetta politics. Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala claimed investigating agencies such as the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate were being “pushed” and “subjected to pressure” by the Prime Minister and his office to “unleash vendetta against political opponents and against anyone who raises their voice”.
“From the day Mamata Banerjee held a joint press conference with Rahul Gandhi and other Opposition leaders, a new wave of vendetta has been unleashed by Modi. The other day when Trinamool MP Tapas Paul was arrested, he named Union minister Babul Supriyo in connection with the chit fund scam. Did Modi arrest Babul Supriyo? Did the CBI even call him for questioning? The arrest of Sudip Bandyopadhyay is nothing but the same step in the same chain of events to unleash vendetta, revenge and suppress the voice of opposition,” Surjewala had said.
However Mannan’s statement and its complete departure from the Congress’s official line isn’t completely without precedent. With the Congress’s rapid decline in Bengal, Mannan’s victory in the 2016 Assembly elections from south Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress had made rapid dents into the opposition camps, was entirely due to his image as the “man who lit the Sharada fire”. It was his PIL in the Calcutta High Court which had eventually reached the Supreme Court and prompted the apex court to order a CBI investigation into the matter.
The BJP, has been quick to point this out. BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya on Wednesday questioned why the TMC was targeting state BJP workers over the arrest of TMC MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay and said, “Why are they targeting BJP workers when it was the Congress – it was Abdul Mannan – who had approached the Supreme Court about the Sarada scam? When Rahul Gandhi had come, he had raised the issue of the Sarada chit fund scam and demanded that it be properly investigated. He said so openly at rallies. Then why target the BJP? What does the Prime Minister have to do with the investigations?”
Meanwhile a senior Congress leader explained that in spite of the TMC-Congress bonhomie at Delhi, nothing has changed just yet in Bengal. “The Left and the Congress alliance is intact. There are those who want it to not work, within both parties for their own political interests. But as of now the Congress will continue their opposition of TMC in Bengal. We will play the opposition role in Bengal and floor-coordination in the Assembly will continue.”