Two days after former BJP leader Manish Sharma’s arrest on charges of money laundering, the party attempted to distance itself from its 2016 state polls candidate and simultaneously launch a counter-allegation that among those arrested was a coal mafia member who had accompanied Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to Singapore in 2014.
Sharma was arrested along with six alleged members of the coal mafia in the state including alleged don Rajesh Jha alias Raju (46) on Wednesday with a cache of arms and cash.
According to the police, they recovered Rs 31 lakh in the newly-minted Rs 2,000 notes and Rs 2 lakh in other notes.
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The BJP had clarified that he was expelled on June 30 over “suspicious behaviour”.
Among those arrested is also Krishnamurari Koyal (44), described by the police as a “promoter” or real estate player, who was driving the car in which the accused persons were travelling when they were intercepted in Manicktala area.
The BJP alleged that Koyal was a known coal mafia player and “had the blessings of Mamata”, citing the chief minister’s 2014 trip to Singapore, where Koyal had allegedly been spotted with her.
At the time, both the Left and BJP had cried foul, alleging that Mamata was “actively harbouring criminals”.
Police officials have not confirmed whether Koyal was indeed a member of Mamata’s delegation in 2014.
Although he Trinamool Congress refused to comment officially, a party leader claimed, “Koyal had attempted to meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during the trip. But afterwards, didi realised that he was upto no good and he was distanced. Investigators have been trying to nail the coal mafia since then. They were allowed to thrive in the Left regime and were actively supported by the BJP.”
Leading the BJP’s offense was union minister Babul Supriyo, who had actively campaigned for Sharma in 2016.
“Krishnakanta Koyal, 1 of the 7 coal mafias arrested, was touring Singapore with Didi in 2014. So who’s money was he converting (into arms)? Manish Sharma, I am told is a small fry…,” he tweeted.
He also asked whether the police would answer questions regarding who harboured Koyal and Raju.
“Sad that people get ‘derailed’ from life & cause embarrassment 2 people who trusted them. Rue the MANY hours I wasted campaigning for him!” he tweeted.
“I campaigned for him being MP, but if he does something wrong, then he must be punished.” Apart from Supriyo, Shahnawaz Hussain had also campaigned for Sharma during 2016 elections.
Sharma unsuccessfully contested the Assembly elections from Raniganj, where he lost with 18 per cent of net votes. He finished third, followed by Communist Party of India (Marxist), which won the election in the constituency.