ON WEDNESDAY, TMC leaders like Firhad Hakim, Bratya Basu, Malay Ghatak and others held an unusual press conference. The crux of it, as a frustrated Hakim burst out, was that they should not all be tarred with the same Partha Chatterjee brush. “Ei Partha da ke ami chini na (I do not recognise this Partha da),” Hakim said. “We are all ashamed of what Partha has done. But that does not mean that everyone in the Trinamool is a thief.”
The “clarification”, as it were, had a short shelf life. It coincided with the Calcutta High Court making the Enforcement Directorate, which has been chasing many TMC leaders, party in a case of disproportionate assets against political leaders in general. Then, TMC opponents were quick to ask why Hakim doth protest too much, while others noted that Chatterjee had been hung out to dry.
On Thursday, adding to the TMC’s troubles, another strongman and Mamata Banerjee aide, Anubrata Mandal, found himself under arrest. This time by the CBI. The ED also summoned eight senior West Bengal police officers to New Delhi for questioning in the coal smuggling case.
The TMC, long used to brazening out accusations, is clearly on the backfoot as heat rises over corruption charges. Having distanced itself from Chatterjee, sources said the TMC might follow the same course of action on Anubrata Mandal as well.
A senior TMC leader, spared the lens of investigating agencies so far, said there were two messages coming from Wednesday’s press conference. “The first, that TMC leaders are keen to portray that they are not thieves and not involved in any malpractice. But the thing is, while saying that they are not thieves, they also said that Partha da is a thief. So, not only have they disowned him, they have accepted that Chatterjee is a criminal.”
Earlier, the TMC’s top two, Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee, had made it clear that Chatterjee was on his own, following the recovery of cash, jewellery and other assets allegedly linked to him. One of Mamata’s close aides, Chatterjee has been removed as a minister as well as from his post in the party.
CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said no one will believe the TMC’s attempts to distance itself from the tainted leaders. “When the Sarada chit fund issue was at the forefront, Mamata Banerjee and other leaders had come out on the streets and challenged, ‘We are thieves’. Now they are saying, they are not thieves. They should give us a list as to which leaders of their party are thieves and those who are not. It will help us deal with them.”
BJP state general secretary Jagannath Chattopadhyay said, “The TMC ecosystem of governance has three pillars — Chor, Goonda and Daladaas Amala (crony bureaucrats).”