At the West Bengal chief minister’s office, he was called ‘Shibaji the Boss’.
Such was the clout enjoyed by Shibaji Panja, one of the closest aides of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was arrested late on Saturday evening at DumDum airport. He was released by a Barrackpore court Sunday on a personal bond.
Panja, a businessman, was made a member of the task force attached to the department of information and culture. He was made a member of the tele-academy set up by the chief minister.
Panja, originally from Burdwan, was also convenor of Kolkata international film festival and was in-charge of the chief minister’s painting exhibition held at Town Hall last year and another one held at an Esplanade gallery in 2011.
The Trinamool Congress has said he was just a businessman and not one of them. “There can be a case against a businessman. It is not related to me,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said.
“And what is more suspicious for us is the timing of the arrest, which was done at the end of a very successful trip of Bangladesh by our chief minister. It was just another effort of the BJP to destabilise and malign the government,’’ Derek O’ Brien, TMC spokesperson, told The Indian Express.
The state Opposition has, however, slammed Mamata following Panja’s arrest. “She was the one who patronised Sudipta Sen. Now look at Shibaji, who has turned out to be a thief. He should be interrogated by CBI,’’ Rahul Sinha, BJP state president, told The Indian Express.
Sinha said Mamata “always maintains a double standard in her relation with corrupt and tainted associates and disowns them or denies any link once they are arrested. But she has to answer to people about her link with such suspicious elements”.
He said, earlier a coal mafia also accompanied her to Singapore for a business trip.
The BJP national secretary in-charge of West Bengal Siddharth Nath Singh said the arrest of Panja would once again disclose how the CM and her party were steeped in corruption.
“Now she has to answer to people about Panja’s relation with her and her party and also what this businessman arrested in a case of financial fraud was doing in Bangladesh and Singapore,” Singh said.
Echoed Abdul Mannan of Congress. “We shudder to think who are the people surrounding our chief minister. We demand that the CBI investigate the case.’’