West Bengal Sports Minister Subhas Chakraborty today ruled out the possibility of his resignation over Wednesday's arrest of 16 criminals reportedly harboured by him at the Salt Lake Yuvabharati Krirangan, saying that the arrested persons were not staying inside the stadium.
"Have the police said that those arrested were staying inside the stadium? The SP (Howrah) said they were picked up from various places. It is being said that arms had also been recovered from the stadium. But is the police saying this?" an agitated Chakraborty asked newsmen here.
When told the arrested persons had reportedly confessed to having worked for Chakraborty in the last assembly polls, the minister said he had seen their photograph published in a Bengali daily but could not recognise any of them.
"The CPI(M) is not such a party that it would need 15-16 people to rig the polls. I have information that the arrested persons are Trinamool Congress cadres from Bally and Bantra (in Howrah district).
Alleging that the TC and a 'big' newspaper had created a controversy on the arrests to discredit him, he said that this was being done to prove the newspaper's incorrect pre-poll prediction that Chakraborty would lose the elections.
Chakraborty, who returned from Delhi this morning, said he had already discussed the report over telephone yesterday with veteran CPI(M) leader Jyoti Basu. On his return from Delhi, he attended the weekly CPI(M) secretariat meeting where he also spoke with Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee and party state secretary Anil Biswas.
Refusing to give details of the discussions, he said, "both the party and the CM are supporting me.
Commenting on the reported confession of those arrested that they had worked for him in the assembly polls, Chakraborty said the question did not arise as the Election Commission booked the youth hostel inside the stadium one month prior to the polls. Even those carrying food for inmates were not allowed inside without permission.
Asked whether the staff manning the hostel inside the stadium checked the antecedents of all borders, he said it was mandatory for boarders to enter their details at the time of occupation.
He said it was not possible for the three staff members to verify the antecedents of all boarders of the 1,350-bed hostel. "I am a member of International Youth Hostel movement. It is not done anywhere in the world." Chakraborty said police should have obtained permission from the authorities concerned before entering the stadium.
"I can understand their entering without permission if they were chasing hardcore terrorists. But this was an ordinary law and order affair," he said.
The minister said a section of police officials could have conspired in raiding the stadium and he had information that some police officials had used abusive language against him during the raids.
Recalling that earlier he had helped the police nab hardcore Khalistani criminals from the city, Chakraborty said he would have helped them this time too had they spoken to him earlier.
He ruled out a departmental inquiry into the incident, saying the police were already conducting one.