Even as ‘skeletons’ continue to pour out of cupboards and wardrobes, Partha Chatterjee has been axed from the West Bengal cabinet. Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials now believe that this heavyweight politician (pun unintended) will start spilling the beans about the role of others involved in the scam to recruit teachers in the state.
His aide, Arpita Mukherjee, has already started talking and told interrogators that she was treated merely as a ‘bank’ by Partha Chatterjee to hold on to cash and other valuables in lieu of favours.
“We are now looking into property owned by shell companies floated by Chatterjee and Mukherjee. Apart from houses and flats, we have received information of land in the Bantala Leather Complex area that was allegedly purchased by Ichhey Entertainment Pvt Ltd, one of the shell companies that we have come across. The valuation of this land is above Rs 20 crore. It was allegedly purchased from a family in Beliaghata. The valuation of property could alone go beyond Rs 50-60 crore,” an ED source said.
But, why did it take nearly six days for West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee to relieve Partha Chatterjee of his ministerial berths?
Her decision came barely 24-hours after her address at the inaugural ceremony of a Metro coach manufacturing unit at Uttarpara, Hooghly, on Wednesday, where she questioned the ED’s tactics of carrying out the raids after the huge turnout at the July 21 Martys’ Day Rally in Kolkata.
During Wednesday’s event, Mamata put up a brave front and even forecast that the BJP-led NDA would get routed in the 2024 Parliamentary elections. She gave no indication that any action was forthcoming against Partha Chatterjee.
“She is under a lot of pressure. Mamata Banerjee realises that the cat is out of the bag and the common man no longer believes that the Trinamool Congress had no inkling of what Partha Chatterjee was up to. Ideally, she should have got rid of Chatterjee the moment he was arrested. But, she knew that he would start talking and other top leaders would come under the scanner. She was simply buying time to allow those leaders to set their houses in order before ousting Chatterjee. Her next move will be to say how nobody, including the secretary general of the party, is spared if he is corrupt. After all, there are some in the party who are not corrupt and we don’t support this,” a senior Trinamool leader and MLA said.
What Mamata doesn’t or refuses to realise is that the ED has done its homework this time. The agency knows that Partha Chatterjee, however big a leader he may have been, couldn’t have amassed this wealth by himself without the knowledge of others in the party. Tabs are already being kept on other leaders. “We have eyes and ears everywhere. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are other big fish to be netted under the PMLA,” the source said.
Mamata Banerjee is 67 years old and realises that age is catching up. The Trinamool Congress, just as any other regional party in India, hasn’t been able to bring forward a face who could take over the mantle five to seven years hence.
She has groomed her nephew Abhishek Banerjee but he is still to emerge a national leader. Rather, the colts under Abhishek Banerjee are now seeking changes in the party’s way of running.
They are even demanding a new Cabinet with new faces.
But, Mamata is scared. After all, it isn’t the Trinamool that people vote for. It is Mamata Banerjee. No wonder, she told voters before the 2021 Assembly Elections in the state that they should think that every seat is being contested by Mamata Banerjee. The Party is going through a crisis today and the next few days will be extremely crucial.