The shadow thrown by the Saradha scandal is slowly creeping up the hierarchy of the Trinamool Congress. After two Rajya Sabha MPs, the CBI Friday arrested Madan Mitra, one of most powerful ministers in Mamata Banerjee’s Cabinet, for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore chit fund scam.
Mitra, the State Transport and Sports Minister, submitted his resignation to Banerjee before reaching the CBI office where he was grilled for five hours before being arrested. He is the first Minister in the state to be arrested in the case after TMC MPs Kunal Ghosh and Srinjoy Bose. The Chief Minister, later, called the arrest “the worst conspiracy the BJP government could do in Bengal.”
According to CBI sources, what led to Mitra’s arrest was crucial evidence including CCTV footage, key statements, and detailed documents of certain financial transactions.
The news of Mitra’s arrest was officially announced at 4.20 pm, following which Banerjee and her senior ministers came out in his defence. Banerjee and State Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee claimed that the “decision to arrest Mitra was taken when the BJP national president (Amit Shah) came to the city on November 30.”
However, the buzz about the possible arrest of Mitra had begun on November 15 when he received the first summons from the agency.
The Minister was then admitted to a private hospital though the doctors there failed to provide a “reasonable explanation for his illness” to CBI.
Mitra was then shifted to the state-run SSKM Hospital, where a medical board — again — failed to submit a medical report to CBI “that could justify Mitra’s illness”. Following his discharge from SSKM, Mitra on November 27 sought a week’s time from CBI.
Contrary to Mitra’s claims, the CBI had recovered CCTV footage showing Mitra entering Saradha CMD Sudipta Sen’s office. Sources said that the agency had also recorded statements of Sen, Saradha executive director Debjani Mukherjee and other employees that revealed Mitra’s links to the Saradha establishment.
According to the sources, Mitra initially “refused to cooperate” but broke down after investigators informed him of the arrest.
CBI official Kanchan Prasad later issued a statement confirming Mitra’s arrest “on prima facie evidence of criminal conspiracy, cheating, and misappropriation as well as deriving undue financial benefits from the Saradha Group”. The statement also confirmed the arrests of “Naresh Balodia, Legal Advisor to Sudipto Sen and Saradha Group on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and diversion of funds in the same case.”
According to a close aide of Mitra, the Minister had “submitted his resignation to the Chief Minister, but madam did not accept it.”
Speaking to reporters later, Banerjee said, “We also have several documents against many persons. But we are gentle and decent. Should we arrest a Central leader when he comes to our state? We can also put several charges. I am challenging the Central government to arrest me if they can. Madan is innocent. It is a political conspiracy.”
Daring the CBI to arrest her, Banerjee said, “They have sent some goonda-like officers here. People can see how these officers look. And they are now doing ‘goondagiri’ here. How can they arrest a patient who was called as a witness? The BJP government has broken the federal and democratic structure of the country.”