Updated: May 18, 2021 8:02:31 am
The CBI Monday arrested four TMC leaders, including two ministers in the newly former West Bengal government, in connection with the Narada sting operation case. The CBI said the four leaders — Ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra, Sovan Chatterjee — were arrested after Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar granted sanction for prosecution this month.
But what it left unsaid said a lot about the latest turn in the case.
Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, who switched sides from TMC to join BJP in the run-up to the state elections, is among those against whom prosecution sanction is still pending.
Also, the CBI has not applied for prosecution sanction against senior BJP leader, Mukul Roy, who was among the first to switch over from TMC in 2017, and is Accused No.1 in the agency’s FIR.
The CBI’s action came just two weeks after the TMC retained power in the state by overcoming an aggressive campaign from the BJP, which had banked on a string of TMC leaders who switched sides over the last few months.
Incidentally, the CBI sent requests for prosecution of the four arrested leaders to the Governor in January — two months ahead of polls — and got the sanction within five days of the results.
Adhikari, who provided a silver lining for the BJP by defeating Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram, is an accused in the case along with 11 others. The request for prosecution sanction against him — along with TMC MPs Saugata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Prasun Banerjee — was sent by the CBI to the Lok Sabha Speaker on April 6, 2019.
Adhikari was a Lok Sabha MP in 2014 when the Narada sting operation, in which TMC leaders were seen on camera accepting or negotiating cash deliveries to allegedly favour a fictitious company, was recorded. Roy was a Rajya Sabha member in 2014. The sting was aired in 2016, ahead of the previous Assembly elections.
Sources told The Indian Express that guidelines of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) state that prosecution sanction must be granted or rejected by the competent authority within four months of the request.
According to CVC records till November 2020, the CBI request for sanction to prosecute Adhikari, who joined the BJP in December last year, and the three TMC MPs, is the only such request pending with the Speaker’s office. Om Birla took charge as Speaker in June 2019 following the general elections.
Those arrested Monday face the same allegations as Adhikari and Roy.
According to the CBI FIR, Hakim allegedly “was shown to have agreed to accept Rs 5 lakh from the sting operator and the said amount was shown to have been accepted by his staff on his behalf, on his instructions”.
Madan Mitra, the FIR has alleged, “was shown to have accepted Rs 5 lakh from the sting operator, who told him that his company was looking for work pertaining to highways and infrastructure projects in the state of West Bengal. Mitra told the sting operator that he had seen how he used to get the work done.”
Subrata Mukherjee, the FIR said, was allegedly “shown to have accepted Rs 5 lakh from the sting operator in the presence of (accused) Iqbal Ahmed. He was also heard assuring to show favour to the sting operator.”
Sovan Chatterjee had joined the BJP in 2019 but quit the party this March after he was denied a party ticket for the Assembly polls. According to the FIR, he allegedly “was shown to have received Rs 4 lakh in cash from the sting operator, who promised to pay a further Rs 1 lakh to him the next day. He was also shown to have assured the sting operator that he would arrange a meeting for him with Shri Abhishek Bandopadhyay, at least once, after the elections. He was heard to agree with the sting operator that he had already received the entire amount of money from him.”
On Adhikari, the FIR says he allegedly “was shown to have accepted Rs 5 lakh while assuring the sting operator to allow him to do projects in his constituency”.
The FIR describes Roy’s alleged role in the sting operation. “…he was shown to have assured to support the sting operator in his business proposals and asked him by hand gesture to come after 24th (24.4.2014) with full amount of money (the amount is not specified in the conversation). The sting operator was heard saying he had brought ‘five’ and promised to bring ‘ten’ more on 24th,” it states.
According to the CBI, in another sting video, Roy was “shown to have told the sting operator that he had asked Shri SMH Mirza, the then SP of Bardhaman, about the interests of his company. He was also shown to have told the sting operator to hand over the money to Mirza that he had brought for him (Mukul Roy).”
In another file, CBI has alleged, Roy told the sting operator “he would not accept the money himself and advised him to go to his office at 6A Elgin Road after 1 hour and hand over the money to the staff available there. He was also shown to have assured the sting operator that he would also reach his office by that time”.
The CBI registered the case in April 2017. In all, the agency has booked 12 leaders of the TMC, including ministers, for alleged criminal conspiracy and corruption.
Apart from Roy and Adhikari, and the four arrested Monday, they include Lok Sabha MPs Saugata Roy, Aparupa Poddar, Sultan Ahmed, Prasun Banerjee and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar; MLA Iqbal Ahmed; and, IPS officer S M H Mirza.
The Calcutta High Court had ordered the CBI to carry out a preliminary enquiry on the tapes that were broadcast on the portal naradanews.com. The order was challenged by the West Bengal government in the Supreme Court which, in 2017, refused to provide relief and gave the CBI one month to file an FIR, if required.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.