Mamata Banerjee vs CBI: Both sides itching for a ‘showdown’

Kolkata: Home Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament on Monday that the detention of CBI officers in Kolkata was “unprecedented” and indicated that there was a constitutional breakdown in the state. The West Bengal Governor has sent a confidential report on the incident to the Home Ministry. The latest showdown follows an intense turf war between the BJP and Mamata as the country heads of polls.

The CBI, meanwhile, told the Supreme Court on Monday morning that the Kolkata police chief Rakeev Kumar is a ‘potential accused’ in the investigation into the chit fund scams; it further accused the city police of destruction of electronic evidence. The Supreme Court, in turn, asked the investigating agency to produce evidence to support its allegations; it will take up the petition on Tuesday.

COUNTER ATTACK                                                                                                                                                                                            In a counter attack on the CBI’s Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Kolkata Police on Monday served a notice to the agency’s joint director and head of zone (Kolkata) Pankaj Kumar Srivastava in connection with ‘wrongful restraint’ and ‘wrongful confinement’ of two businessmen in August 2018. Paramilitary forces were deployed after Srivastav alleged that his life was under threat as Kolkata Police officers surrounded his house and allegedly “banged on doors”.

CBI’s interim director Nageshwar Rao said his personnel were being targeted to destroy evidence of the chit fund cases. On Monday, CBI offices at Nizam Palace in south Kolkata and CGO Complex in Salt Lake turned into fortresses as heavily armed CRPF jawans took charge of security. Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, in turn, alleged that Mamata Banerjee was trying to protect herself ? ‘‘Why else is she running way from the inquiry,” he demanded.

‘This is it to hide evidence; the chit fund scamster, in his testimony, had said there is one red diary and a pen drive. Those are missing,’’ he added. In another twist, Kolkata Police has denied receiving any letter from the CBI with regard to Sunday’s operation for quizzing Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam.

This comes a days after the Bengal government claimed that there were no warrants or official communication about CBI officials visit at the commissioner’s residence. Noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan, in turn, has alleged that the CBI had issued notices to Bengal police officers to appear on ‘backdates’. ‘‘Truly CBI in wonderland!” he tweeted. Mamata Banerjee, meanwhile, continued with her sit-in protest, surrounded by her ministers and top party leaders; earlier, she stayed up the entire night on a makeshift dais.

She termed her ‘dharna’ (sit-in) as “non-political” and not against any individual agency but the “anarchic moves” of the Narendra Modi government to “destroy” democracy. “Our satyagraha is not against any individual agency. Our protest is against the anarchic moves by the Modi government, against their attempts to divide the country and spread hate, intimidation and terror among people,” said Banerjee.

“This is a Satyagraha to save the Constitution,’’ she told the reporters. “My police force is my pride, will give my life but won’t compromise,” said Mamata. TMC leader Derek O’Brien maintained that taint of “corruption will never stick to Mamata’s white saree.” The Bengal CM has announced that the dharna will go on till Feb 8. DMK leader Kanizimohi and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav are expected to arrive in Kolkata shortly.

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