Kolkata, May 19 (IANS) Former West Bengal minister Madan Mitra, jailed in the Saradha chit fund scam, became one of the most high profile casualties for the Trinamool Congress even as the party on Thursday stormed to a landslide victory in the state.
While a section of intellectuals and activists described Trinamool’s coming back to power in the state as peoples’ acceptance of “corrupt politicians”, they hailed Mitra’s defeat as a positive sign.
Jailed in the multi-crore rupee Saradha scam, the former transport and sports minister also featured in the Narada sting operation which purportedly showed over a dozen Trinamool bigwigs accepting bundles of cash as bribe for favouring a fictitious company.
The only former state minister to have contested the polls from jail, Mitra failed to retain Kamarahati constituency in North 24 Parganas, going down to CPI-M’s Manash Mukherjee by over 4,000 votes.
In a seesaw battle, Mitra trailed the Marxist nominee for the large part of the day before taking a slender lead in the afternoon. However, Mukherjee, who went down to Mitra in 2011, wrested back Kamarhati for the Left Front which otherwise had little to cheer. Bharatiya Janata Party’s Krishanu Mitra was a distant third.
Incidentally, Mitra is the only Trinamool leader allegedly caught in the Narada sting, to lose the polls. Five of his party colleagues, who too were purportedly shown accepting bundles of cash, emerged victorious – that too with big margins.
Indicted by the Central Bureau of Investigation of cheating, conspiracy and criminal breach of trust, Mitra has been behind bars since his arrest on December 12, 2014, except for a brief period in October 2015 when he was granted bail by a lower court. The relief was subsequently cancelled by the Calcutta High Court.
He gave up his ministerial portfolios prior to the cancellation of his bail.
The only candidate in the polls who couldn’t cast his vote owing to his status as a prisoner, Mitra, post the elections, had said he wouldn’t have contested if he had prior information about the restrictions imposed on him by the poll panel.
Mitra, who spent a considerable part of his incarceration period at the government run SSKM hospital, was put under constant vigil and barred from using a mobile by the poll panel during his stay at the hospital in the ongoing polls.
The Election Commission move came in the wake of the opposition alleging he would use his “influence” from the hospital to disrupt fair polling.
Famed painter Samir Aich welcomed the electoral verdict against Mitra.
“The results undoubtedly prove the people’s faith in the Trinamool, but at the same time, Mitra’s defeat does indicate that a jailed candidate is not acceptable, irrespective which party he represents,” said Aich who had who contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls as a Congress nominee.
Appearing sarcastic about Trinamool victory, right and social activists Anuradha Talwar said: “The massive victory indicates that people now have given acceptance to politicians being corrupt. But Madan Mitra’s defeat is indeed a positive sign”.