As the Supreme Court broke the three-day impasse between the TMC-led West Bengal government and the BJP-led Centre over the issue of interrogation of the Kolkata Police chief in the chit fund scam cases, both parties claimed victory in the apex court’s order on Tuesday.
While the TMC called the court’s direction to CBI against any coercive step, including arrest of police chief Rajeev Kumar, during the course of investigation as a “moral victory” for the party, the BJP said the order has brought West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s “political histrionics” to a halt.
Union minister Smriti Irani said the court had asked Kumar to present himself and “faithfully cooperate” with the CBI’s probe. She said, “The anarchist Chief Minister (Banerjee) intervened in the process of collection of evidence…officers were heckled, manhandled and detained, their families harassed and their homes surrounded. The Supreme Court has directed a response from the Chief Secretary, DGP and the Police Commissioner (of Kolkata).”
Irani said the court’s direction to Kumar to appear before CBI in Shillong showed “a state of lawlessness” exists in West Bengal.
The TMC sees even the choice of venue as a victory for the party. “The Attorney General (in SC) had insisted on Delhi (as venue). The Supreme Court did not agree. Shillong is a neutral venue, so our point has been upheld,” a party leader said.
Taking a swipe at Banerjee for claiming moral victory in the court’s order, Irani said, “With egg on her face, to celebrate it as moral victory is a dichotomy available only to Mamata Banerjee’s realm of politics.”
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley stated in a blog post that Banerjee indulged in “disgraceful and disproportionate reaction” because she wanted to “de-focus from other opposition aspirants for the highest office and to project herself as the nucleus of India’s opposition”.
Jaitley took potshots at Opposition leaders who rallied behind Banerjee. Indicating N Chandrababu Naidu, whom he referred to as “friend from Andhra Pradesh”, Jaitley said he is a leader who “runs a party of contractors, thekhedaars and money-launderers”; two friends from Uttar Pradesh (SP and BSP) “represent the scandalous legacy of corruption”; and taking a dig at Arvind Kejriwal, he wrote that “her Anarchic brother from Delhi Government is at his wits end because the penny stock companies of his Ministerial colleagues have been found out”.
The TMC did not issue an official statement after Banerjee’s detailed press conference, but the party claimed the result of CBI’s petition has been a “permanent protection” from arrest — a slight exaggeration, as the protection from arrest is until February 20, the next date of hearing in the case.
The party took the line that the court’s “no surrender, no arrest, no humiliation” verdict has ensured that Banerjee’s fight for “dignity of government servants” is honoured. TMC leaders also maintained that at no point did the police commissioner, or anyone else, withhold cooperation. They maintained Kumar had written five letters to the CBI, asking for a mutually convenient date and venue for a meeting to discuss the probe. “No reply came, because that is not what they wanted. They wanted to browbeat the West Bengal administration. The apex court’s order has put an end to that ulterior motive,” a party leader said.