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Within a span of four days, two MPs of Trinamool Congress (TMC) have been arrested by CBI. The latest being Sudip Bandopadhyay who was arrested today. The TMC is alleging political vendetta behind these arrests  

By Sujit Bhar

Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has more problems on her hands. The CBI on January 3, 2017 arrested another of her MPs, this time veteran politician and long-time comrade-in-arms Sudip Bandopadhyay.

It has turned out to be a harrowing year-ender and a sad New Year for the Bengal CM. On December 30 another of her MPs, Tapas Paul, had been arrested by the investigating agency. Both have been taken in after grilling at the Kolkata offices of the CBI, and both connected to chit fund scammers Rose Valley.

Bandopadhyay, the leader of TMC’s parliamentary party, was taken in after he was grilled by CBI officers for hours at the agency’s office. Bandopadhyay, too, had littler inkling of what was to happen. Before he went into the office for the questioning, he had reportedly told the media: “I have come to clarify my position on whatever questions they have.”

The CBI had summoned the MP twice in December last year, but he had failed to attend any, citing engagements during the parliamentary session.

Mamata responded in her usual manner, tweeting that this arrest, too was political vendetta. From her official Twitter handle @MamataOfficial, she said: “We strongly condemn the political vindictive attitude of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah…” She also said: “For no reasons arrests have been made. Only reason is #NoteBandi… We will be with the people. This is not only financial emergency. This is full-fledged emergency…”

It has been learnt that she will be out on a state-wide agitation against these arrests.

Mother of all scams

Rose Valley has been termed as the mother of all scams in West Bengal, at a possible Rs 17,000 crore being at least seven times the size of the more publicised Saradha chit fund scam.

 It has turned out to be a harrowing year-ender and a sad New Year for the Bengal CM. On December 30 another of her MPs, Tapas Paul, had been arrested by the investigating agency. Both have been taken in after grilling at the Kolkata offices of the CBI, and both connected to chit fund scammers Rose Valley.

The company had, allegedly, defrauded millions, mostly from the low income group in not only West Bengal, but also in nine other states, with promises of unnaturally high returns. The Gautam Kundu-owned unlicensed firm was involved in businesses that spread across real estate, films, media, jewellery, hotels and resorts. Kundu has been lodged in jail for the past one year.

It has been said that during his grilling, Kundu had apparently revealed that he had met Mamata and Bandopadhyay several times in 2012 and had purchased some of the chief minister’s paintings. While this cannot be the base on which a criminal investigation can be conducted, if true this certainly establishes a link between the two.

Meanwhile, the CBI is investigating all angles. Tapas Pal’s daughter Sohini too was questioned by the agency in Bhubaneswar for the second time.

Opposition reaction

The reaction from the Opposition (whatever is left of it in the state) was somewhat odd. While state Congress leader, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has said: “Bengal’s image has been tarnished by scams,” he also added, “The case is being directed by the judiciary. I don’t see this as a case of political vendetta. But at the same time, the CBI is being used by the Centre.”

In a time when the party is preparing for the polls in Uttar Pradesh, and is trying to find an identity of alliance, this seems a guarded comment.  

The Left Front, bereft of any hope of any alliance today, mouthed its stated line. According to its leader, Md Salim:  “The arrest is long-delayed but I welcome CBI’s decision to arrest Sudip. This investigation must reach to Mamata’s doorstep. She launched a decibel campaign because she knew they were going to be arrested. There is no political vendetta.”

Lead: A file picture of TMC MP Sudip Bandopadhyay. Photo: PIB

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