When the then senior West Bengal minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) heavyweight Partha Chatterjee was arrested by the ED amid recovery of crores in July in connection with his alleged involvement in the school jobs scam, the TMC as well as its supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee not only distanced themselves from Chatterjee, but also quickly removed him from his ministries besides suspending him from the party.
In sharp contrast, when the CBI arrested the TMC’s Birbhum district president, Anubrata Mondal, in August over a cattle smuggling case, or when the agency raided the premises of state law minister and TMC strongman in the Asansol belt, Moloy Ghatak, on September 7 and grilled him over his alleged involvement in a coal smuggling scam, Mamata came out to support them and slam the central agencies for their allegedly targeting of the ruling BJP’s political rivals.
Last Thursday, addressing an event of the TMC workers at Kolkata’s Netaji Indoor Stadium, Mamata called upon them to give a “heroic welcome” to Mondal when he is released from jail, saying without naming the BJP and the Centre that “if they think these measures (CBI & ED raids and arrests) will help them secure two parliamentary seats from West Bengal, they will not succeed”. She said, “Kesto (Anubrata) is unwell and every election they restrict his movement thinking it will bolster their prospects. Those who’ve come from Birbhum should increase the fight by three times till Kesto doesn’t come back. Give him a heroic welcome when he returns from jail. He deserves it.”
The CM praised Ghatak too for “putting up a fight” against the CBI and for asserting that “everything (the agency’s case) is a lie”.
Mamata also asked the TMC activists to launch a campaign against the BJP-led Centre with the slogan “BJP’s agency chay na, chaakri chay (We don’t want BJP’s agencies, we want jobs).” She said, “Trinamool Congress is the most transparent and disciplined party. Ahead of Pujas, I will request party block committees to focus on this slogan… BJP believes in abolishing jobs. Over 4 lakh business persons and industrialists have left the country. Those who are still here are being harassed by ED and Income Tax… Where is the accountability for the crores of money received under PM Cares?”
The reasons why Mamata has chosen to step out openly and throw her weight behind leaders like Anubrata Mondal and Moloy Ghatak are evident. The central agencies’ unrelenting action against senior TMC leaders has hurt the party organisation and bruised the morale of its rank and file. Mondal is one of the closest lieutenants of Mamata, who apart from being the party’s Birbhum strongman also holds sway over neighbouring districts.
Similarly, Ghatak, besides being a minister, is a key organisation leader. He is the TMC strongman in the coal belt of Paschim Bardhaman district, who plays a major role in the organisational affairs of the region.
TMC sources maintained that amid such intense heat from the CBI and the ED on key party functionaries, Mamata has barely any option other than hitting back at the BJP and standing by her beleagured colleagues publicly. A senior TMC leader said, “Anubrata Mondal and Moloy Ghatak — such leaders are the TMC’s main election managers in vast belts across districts. If Didi (Mamata) does not stand by them, the party’s poll machinery will totter in the state. Other leaders would then also not come forward to steer the critical party machinery over fears that they would also be let down by the leadership in their difficult times.”
Another senior TMC leader said, “Mamata Banerjee is widely known and respected as a fighter. She has always been a street fighter. If such a fighter leader becomes a mute spectator in the face of central agencies’ relentless crackdown, including raids and arrests, on senior TMC leaders, it will shake the entire party cadre. Didi knows this very well. So, she is now trying to send out a message to them at all levels, from top to the booths, that if they are dedicated to the organisation the party will also go to any extent to back them.” He also said, “In 2023, Panchayat polls will be held. The Lok Sabha elections are due in 2024. These elections are vital for TMC. And without party managers like Kesto, it would not be possible for Mamata Banerjee to easily pull off wins in them like she has been doing for many years.”
The Opposition parties however hit out at Mamata for her remarks in praise of Mondal and Ghatak. The Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Shuvendu Adhikari, ridiculed the CM, saying “She has to go to Delhi’s Tihar Jail to meet whom she calls Veer.”
BJP leader Sajal Ghosh said, “I never believe that Anubrata is a good organiser. If the police are there as slaves, then organisers like Anubrata Mandal can be formed in any area. This man changed the political tradition by not allowing any space for the Opposition on his turf.”
The CPI(M)’s state secretary Md Salim charged: “It has been proved now that Mamata Banerjee has built anti-social forces to loot the vote and help her win the polls. That is why she is saying ‘give heroic respect’ (to Anubrata Mondal). She needs these lumpens to win elections.”