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Newsmaker | TMC’s coal-belt mainstay, Bengal Law Minister Moloy Ghatak under CBI scanner

Ghatak was credited with orchestrating Shatrughan Sinha’s landslide victory in the Asansol Lok Sabha bypoll in April.

West Bengal Minister Moloy Ghatak with Chief MInister Mamata Banerjee. (Photo: Moloy Ghatak | Facebook)

He is the Trinamool Congress’s (TMC) strongman in the coal belt of Paschim Bardhaman district and has the final say on organisational matters in the region. West Bengal’s Law Minister Moloy Ghatak on Wednesday became the latest ruling party leader to have his home raided by a central agency. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) searched the minister’s three homes in Asansol and an apartment at the MLA hostel in Kolkata in connection with its inquiry into an alleged coal pilferage scam.

The 66-year-old Ghatak is a third-generation advocate who practised law at Asansol court. He forayed into politics in 2001, getting elected on a TMC ticket from the former Hirapur Assembly constituency in the undivided Bardhaman district. He failed to retain the seat in 2006 and shifted to the newly formed Asansol Uttar Assembly constituency five years later and won. Known for his organisational network in Bardhaman, Ghatak holds immense influence over the party’s rank and file in the region. He was instrumental in the creation of Paschim Bardhaman district, whose headquarters is Asansol, in April 2017.

The TMC leadership rewarded Ghatak’s organisational prowess in November 2012 by appointing him the state agriculture minister. In July 2014, his portfolio was changed and he was made the law and labour minister. After the TMC retained power in the Assembly elections last year, Ghatak retained the law portfolio and was handed the additional charge of the Public Works Department.

The minister’s control and influence over the party in Asansol and adjoining areas can be gauged by the fact that in TMC circles it is believed that his disagreements with party leader Dola Sen contributed to her defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Asansol. Ghatak, according to insiders, hoped to be nominated for the polls and did not campaign for Sen. This helped Babul Supriyo, then with the BJP and now a minister in the TMC government, to bag the parliamentary seat. Ghatak and Sen, who has been in the Rajya Sabha since 2015, were later said to have buried the hatchet.

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Ghatak was credited with turning around the TMC’s fortunes in Asansol as actor Shatrughan Sinha wrested the seat from the BJP in a bypoll in April, defeating the Opposition party’s candidate Agnimitra Paul. The minister’s organisational abilities ensured a victory margin of over three lakh votes for Sinha.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned the minister a few times in the case of alleged coal pilferage. The others under ED scanner are Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and TMC’s defacto second-in-command Abhishek Banerjee and his wife Rujira. The case is linked to the alleged pilferage of coal worth crores from Eastern Coalfields’ mines in Kunustoria (Asansol subdivision) and Kajora (Durgapur subdivision) in 2020. The ED filed a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after the CBI began its probe.

First published on: 07-09-2022 at 03:27:39 pm
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