Furious protests broke out in Kolkata on Monday morning as the CBI arrested several top Trinamool Congress leaders in connection with the Narada scam. Two West Bengal Cabinet Ministers Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee as well as TMC MLA Madan Mitra and former minister Sovan Chatterjee were taken away to CBI office in Nizam Place and subsequently arrested.
The developments had prompted Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to state an agitation within the premises, even as party supporters tussled with the police, defying lockdown to gather in the area. They raised slogans against the BJP-led NDA government, hurled stones and bricks at security personnel and made attempts to enter the building. The agitators also burnt tyres and blocked roads in several other parts of the state, including Hooghly, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts.
But for many the anger over the situation does not stem from the arrests per se. Rather, it is the names that have become conspicuous by their absence from the arrest list. Many including Mathew Samuel, the senior journalist who had conducted the sting operation and purportedly caught the then TMC leaders accepting bribes, have pointed out the exclusion of Suvendu Adhikari, who recently defected from the TMC to the BJP.
"I had gone and given the money to Suvendu Adhikari in his office. His name is not on the list. What happened? A forensic was conducted and it was proven...the CBI took a statement from me too," he was quoted as saying.
In an interview with Outlook magazine, he added that he had met with Adhikari and given the lawmaker Rs. 5 lakh, adding that the tape for the same had been forensically verified by the CBI. While Mukul Roy did not accept money directly, Samuel says that he made a payment of Rs. 15 lakh to the latter via suspended IPS officer Mirza.
Similar remarks alleging bias based on party lines have also been made by TMC leaders. Party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh had demanded the arrest of BJP leaders Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari earlier in the day.
Earlier today, West Bengal Assembly speaker Biman Bandhopadhyay had said that the arrests were illegal as his permission had not been sought for the same. Interestingly enough, this appears to have been a hindrance of sorts for quite some time now. According to a News18 report, data from the Central Vigilance Commission indicates that the CBI had applied for prosecution sanction for MPs Sougata Roy, Prasun Banerjee, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Suvendu Adhikari in the Narada case on April 6, 2019. However, at least till November 2020, this is reportedly the only case that is pending for prosecution sanction with the office of the Lok Sabha Speaker.