West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday sought to insulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi from allegations of misuse of central agencies by the BJP-led Centre against political rivals by saying she doesn't believe that the PM is behind the alleged excesses of CBI and ED.
"Every day, leaders of opposition parties are being threatened by the BJP leaders with arrest by CBI and ED. Should central agencies function this way in the country? I don't believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is behind this, but some BJP leaders are misusing the CBI and ED for their interests," she said.
The CBI, which used "to report to the Prime Minister's Office is now under the jurisdiction of the Union Home Ministry", claimed the feisty TMC boss, who had earlier blamed Modi for unleashing CBI and ED against political opponents.
The chief minister, who has been a voracious critic of the Narendra Modi government since 2014, blamed a section of the BJP leaders for misusing the central agencies to serve their interests.
While speaking on a resolution in the Assembly against the "excesses" of the central probe agencies, Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress supremo, urged the Prime Minister to ensure that the functioning of the union government and the interests of his party do not get mixed up.
"The Prime Minister must look into the excesses of central agencies. The Prime Minister must ensure that the functioning of the union government and the interests of his party do not get mixed up," she said.
The BJP said such a resolution “against the CBI and ED is against the rules and regulations of the Assembly”.
The resolution was passed through division, with 189 voting in favour of it and 69 against it.
Central agencies such as CBI and ED are probing into several cases in the state, in which senior TMC leaders are accused.
Banerjee’s statement prompted the Congress and CPI(M) to allege that the “tacit understanding” between the TMC and BJP has come to the fore.
Referring to state BJP leaders, Banerjee wondered why they are “meeting” CBI officers at their office often.
The chief minister claimed that businessmen are leaving the country as they are being hounded by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Alleging that Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari and some other central BJP leaders are hatching a plot to harass TMC leaders, Banerjee wondered why the CBI or ED never summons him, who too has graft cases against him.
"The present union government is behaving in a dictatorial way. This resolution is not against anyone in particular but against the biased functioning of the central agencies. (It appears) that all opposition leaders, including TMC leaders, are thieves and BJP leaders, those who have joined from other parties, have become saints," she said.
Adhikari had joined the BJP from TMC ahead of last year’s Assembly elections.
“We are an elected government. Just because the BJP has miserably failed in the last assembly polls, it doesn't mean that they will keep on harassing us by using central agencies and blocking funds," she said.
Adhikari claimed that the Chief Minister is trying to drive a wedge in the BJP by praising the Prime Minister and blaming other leaders of the party.
"The TMC is in complete disarray following the arrest of its leaders in corruption cases. They now want to malign an independent agency. The Prime Minister has zero tolerance for corruption. The TMC cannot escape its sins," Adhikari said.
Banerjee and Adhikari later exchanged pleasantries on the floor of the House.
Reacting to Banerjee's comment, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, "The tacit understanding between the TMC and the BJP is out in the open. It is not a fight against any individual but an ideology. The TMC from the very beginning has been the weakest link in the opposition camp."
CPI(M) state secretary Mohammed Salim said that driving a wedge in the opponent camp is an "old trick" of Banerjee.
"This is nothing new. During the Left Front government in the state, the TMC tried similar tricks by saying Kerala CPI(M) is better than Bengal CPI(M). This comment also reflects the tacit understanding between the TMC and the BJP," he said.
(With PTI Inputs)