The CBI on Monday morning arrested Bengal ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee in connection with the Narada sting operation that allegedly exposed cash for favours scam involving some of the top leaders of the Trinamool Congress at that time. Apart from them, MLA Madan Mitra and former minister Sovan Chatterjee were also arrested.
Following this, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the CBI office at the Nizam palace complex. She looked angry. She told the CBI officers that the arrests were illegal and that the agency will have to arrest her too.
On May 8, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had given sanctions to the CBI for filing charge sheets against these four. Banerjee, however, claimed on Monday that the governor's approval of the CBI's plea was illegal. All of them were ministers in Mamata Banerjee's first cabinet when this scam broke out.
Speaking to Outlook over the phone, Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee said, "The high court had asked the CBI if they sought for the Speaker's approval. We told the court we received no application from the CBI. The governor's approval, at a time, the Speaker was still on his chair, is unethical and also legally untenable. The Speaker's chair was not vacant when the governor gave this approval."
Bengal Congress president and Lok Sabha MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, too, questioned the arrests. "The arrests could have taken place earlier or a few days later. But the timing, especially amidst this pandemic, raises questions whether this move is an expression of vindictive politics."
Two persons who were also accused in the same case are Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy. Adhikari was then a TMC Lok Sabha member who is now one of the prime faces of Bengal BJP and the newly elected leader of the opposition. Roy was then a TMC Rajya Sabha member and now a national vice president of the BJP.
However, the CBI has got no sanction from the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to proceed against the two, according to the latest information.
The CBI's latest actions drew sharp criticism from the Trinamool Congress, which accused the CBI of playing the role of "caged parrots" serving their "political masters in the Union cabinet."
Notably, the BJP's official YouTube channel used to host the Narada sting operation video but removed it soon after Suvendu Adhikari joined the BJP in December last year.
CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said that the CBI made the correct move by arresting persons accused of corruption.
"The accused persons and even the state government had approached the Supreme Court against the order of CBI investigation but did not get the order in their favor. The CBI has taken the right step and now the Lok Sabha speaker should accord sanction to the CBI without delay so that all the accused could be brought under justice," said Bhattacharya, himself a renowned lawyer.
He also said that the governor had the right to sanction the agency's plea because he did it on a day when the new government was yet to be formed.
Following the incident, CPI(ML) (Liberation) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya criticised the role of the Centre.
In a Facebook post, he wrote, "Reeling under the #COVIDSecondWave, India is asking for vaccines, oxygen, and care for the living and dignity for the dead. For the Modi government, this is the time for its politics of vendetta and persecution. Of the four persons currently being arrested/targeted in West Bengal, two (Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee) are cabinet ministers in the reelected TMC government, one (Madan Mitra) is a TMC MLA, and the fourth person (Shovan Chatterjee) is a TMC turncoat and former Kolkata Mayor who had joined the BJP before resigning. The role of the Sangh-BJP establishment and the Modi government during this crisis tells us every moment why they are such an enormous disaster for India. How long will India have to suffer?"