Mitra's arrest draws Mamata's flak

Mitra's arrest draws Mamata's flak

Angered by the arrest of senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader and state minister Madan Mitra, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah on Saturday.

She reiterated her claim that the arrest was a conspiracy by the Centre, a statement she had made soon after Mitra’s arrest by the CBI on Friday for his alleged role in the Saradha scam. The arrest of Mitra, the first sitting minister and a senior TMC leader, in the multi-crore scam seems to have sent shivers down the spine of Trinamool leaders and has affected party workers' morale.

Calling the arrest a “political vendetta”, Banerjee on Saturday hit out at Modi at a rally in the city organised to protest against it. Terming the arrest “wrong, unconstitutional, undemocratic, unethical and illegal”, she said, “The BJP has thrown us a challenge, and we’ve accepted it. They are destroying democracy. They are ruining the country. The present central government is being controlled by the RSS,” she said.

Banerjee raised again her party’s allegation that Modi and Shah had taken kickbacks from Sahara chief Subrata Roy, a matter the party has tried to turn into a major issue, even in Parliament.

The Trinamool had flashed a diary in the House, which purportedly contained details of the payments. “There are photos of the prime minister with Roy. Should we demand that the CBI arrest the prime minister?” Banerjee told the crowd, amid thunderous applause.

Mamata also said Trinamool MPs would protest in Parliament against the arrest of Mitra, who has been with the party since its formed in 1998. The opposition Left, which also took out a rally in the city in reply to the Trinamool, demanded that the CBI also question the chief minister for her role in the scam. “She (Banerjee) knows everything about the scam, but is trying to sweep it under the carpet,” said CPM state secretariat member Sujan Chakraborty. BJP state president Rahul Sinha, who welcomed Mitra’s arrest as a “step forward in the right direction”, said, “The Trinamool’s days are numbered. Most of their leaders will be arrested.”

CBI custody
Mitra, who was presented before a city court on Saturday, within 24 hours of his arrest, was remanded in CBI custody till December 16, sources said. Eyewitnesses inside the court said Mitra was defiant and called the CBI a “stooge of the Centre” and told the court that the instructions given to the CBI to arrest him came from Delhi. Sources said despite arranging for a strong security cordon around Mitra when he was being produced at court, the city police had clashed with Trinamool workers. A popular face of the party, Mitra received a hero’s welcome at the court as Trinamool activists tried to prevent the convoy carrying him from entering the court premises.

Mitra has been charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating and misappropriation and deriving undue financial benefits from Saradha Group chairman Suditpo Sen, who has been also behind bars since April 2013.

Mitra is the first minister and the senior-most Trinamool leader to be arrested in connection with the scam.

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